It is a milestone in life that I should have reached almost two decades ago.
Now, after many years of unsuccessful attempts, I have finally passed my driving test, in Dubai, I am almost 37 years old.
It’s been a rollercoaster.
After taking lessons in Scotland aged 18 and again aged 24, I failed a total of four events and gave up once, until I re-enrolled to study in Dubai earlier this year.
Many thousands of dirhams later – I’ll tell you how much at the end – I’m finally allowed on the road, after passing my second test.
But as I’m finding out, the learning process continues long after you can legally drive. Passing and being a good driver on the roads of this country are often two different things.
For starters, here are some humble tips I can offer.
Get the basics right
At the very beginning of my first road test, in the parking lot of a driving school in Al Quoz, the RTA inspector asked me to start the car.
And I had no idea. That was after 18 two-hour lessons over three months.
As mild as it sounds, the car was running every time I got in. This keyless car had a push button start.
Fumbling, I figured I should put the car in standby by pushing the ignition once, then hit the brake again and the ignition button again to start the engine.
It was a bad start with a bad first test, and I kept making other mistakes and receiving failures.
Early in your studies, ask if you can open the bonnet and see the engine. Make sure you understand the basics of the car as well.
Rules of the road
I spent a week going through 10 hours of online video classes for the mandatory theory course, which sits before you get in the car.
And I could answer most questions correctly, passing the first time. But I did not understand the road – not at all.
Take your time to understand with your instructor what route to use in the circuit and who has the right to go in any situation.
When you start your driving lessons, it is assumed that you understand how the road system works and the instructors tend to skip over the obvious.
Learn to change lanes – and study your studies in the rush hour
Squeezing between speeding SUVs and construction trucks to change lanes doesn’t come naturally.
Your tendency is to hold carefully. That is one of the main mistakes that examiners look for and fail students.
Being cautious is a good trait but slowing down and nervously drifting into the next lane? It is more dangerous.
I booked all my future lessons at rush hour and tackled the problem head on, changing lanes in heavy traffic to click. Finally, I covered Al Khail Road, Mohamed bin Zayed Road and Emirates Road, all during rush hour.
Learn how to drive, not just how to pass
Some teachers spend a lot of time telling you what to expect in the test and how to pass it.
You are there to learn how to drive.
Don’t be afraid to ask to repeat the basics over and over again, and ask why you are being taught certain things. I did four night driving classes instead of the mandatory one, which helps to get used to the dangers.
When it came to the crash course, which is usually done before your first test, I asked for two instead of one.
When you take your test, the examiner will see a calm and confident student behind the wheel.
Check your blind spot
It is the cause of many accidents including deaths. Last year, 22 motorcyclists died and 253 were injured on Dubai’s roads.
The increase in the number of motorcyclists in the last five years has made the traffic on the roads even faster. E-scooters are a bigger problem.
And they can often be found hovering around your blind spots. A quick shoulder check can make the difference between life and death.
And finally, you can’t do much to avoid bad or aggressive drivers – they’re everywhere – but you can stick to the law and keep yourself safe.
How much does it cost to learn?
For a complete beginner, you will need 20 hours of compulsory lessons, which are organized into two-hour lessons. If you have a license from home, you can automatically convert from some countries, while others, such as India and Pakistan, require five or 10 hours of study and a test to be taken.
Major driving schools such as Emirates Driving Institute (EDI), Belhasa Driving Center and Galadari, charge around Dh4,500 to Dh5,500 for a course, once various fees and permits are added.
You have to pay more for extra lessons, and if you fail you have to do four hours of study before you can retake the test.
Many schools offer crash courses in luxury cars. I paid about Dh22,500 for the all-inclusive platinum EDI course – far, far more than I ever bargained for.
Towards the end, the RTA introduced new fees for luxury courses only meaning you have to pay Dh1,100 per test, and I took two tests to pass.
It is a very expensive way to learn.
What is the success rate?
According to the instructors, the RTA road test pass rate is less than 50 percent, or exactly 46 percent when I asked.
For gold/platinum courses offered by those schools that include unlimited tuition, the pass rate is claimed to be over 80 percent, meaning that many pass on the first or second attempt, due to extra study and more preparation. instructions.
How is the test?
It is a 10 to 15 minute drive in Al Quoz or Al Qusais with an RTA road test inspector, a profession reserved for Emiratis.
You usually do your self-parking test in a closed car park early in your course, then at the end of the solo driving test. In the course I did, you do it all together in one test.
Some driving schools still put several students in front of the same car – a real problem of the system – to go around to the examiner.
If you fail, don’t panic. Listen to the feedback from the examiner, it will help you pass next time.
Updated: 26 October 2022, 7:53 AM