Opel Astra Manual Gearknob

Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri announced late last month that if everything goes as planned, the government will soon be introducing a new driving license for automatic transmission cars only. This is expected to happen by the end of this year.

Having a separate license for automatic cars only is quite common and is practiced in countries like Australia and even our neighbours down south. Singapore has Class 3 licenses for both manual and auto cars, and Class 3A licenses which permit you to drive autos only.

Naturally, for auto-only licenses the exam is conducted with an automatic car. The Transport Ministry will make several changes in the curriculum and test as well as restructure regulations (Road Transport Act 1987, Motor Vehicle Regulations – Driving License 1992) to allow automatic cars to be used for driving exams.

If this goes through, great for those who don’t want to bother learning how to drive a manual, or at least getting an auto license first with the option of upgrading it to a manual license later. But cross your fingers and just hope that you don’t get into an emergency situation where you absolutely need to drive a manual car.

The next step is to weed out all the corruption from driving exams so that the licenses are issued to people who deserve them.

The syllabus also needs to be updated with more useful information such as how to recover from understeer, oversteer, how to brake with ABS and etc. Just look at what BMW is doing with their BMW Driver Training, take the basic course syllabus and adopt it. Let’s face it – traction control and stability control is seriously far from being a common feature on our local spec cars, especially with cars priced below RM100k. This combined with the bad conditions of our roads, diesel/oil spills and the often heavy rainstorm (aquaplaning!) is not a good thing.

Finally there should be rules that require a driver to be retested every few years – no need to be often. Every 5 or 10 years could work, perhaps they could make it so that this retesting comes into effect when you become an elderly driver, to ensure that you are able to drive safely on the road and not inhibited by health issues such as an untreated deteriorating eyesight and pose a danger both to yourself and others. Make it a simple and cheap to conduct test so that people will not be burdened by a high retesting cost.

Yes, it sounds cruel to the poor old folks who do not have their children to take them places but those who are in perfect health condition to drive shouldn’t have a problem passing, and those who cannot pass really shouldn’t be driving.