How I got my first driver’s license in America and why it’s not necessary to go to a driving school
“Where are you from, from Germany?” I took a driving test, and my Nepalese instructor was surprisingly talkative. “No, from Ukraine,” I replied, without turning my head.
The level of stress was already going wild. I repeated nervously about myself the mantra "to follow Stop signs - do not exceed speed - do not turn my head around the mirrors." Suddenly, the instructor replied in Ukrainian: “Good, good,” and finally puzzled me.
Then we talked about life in America, and he also advised me to turn more decisively (“because other drivers can be nervous”). In the end, I passed the exam. And finally I felt full, and not a “without rights” person in the USA!
The fact that, unlike Europe, outside the large cities (and often in the cities themselves) in the United States there is almost no public transport, I learned only after moving. And not just did not have a car and a driver’s license, but in general did not spend a day driving. I had to study already here.
Driving schools - for violators
To get a license in the USA, you must pass a theoretical exam and driving practice. Moreover, adults do not have to go to driver’s schools (driver’s clinics), but malicious violators are sent there for “recertification”. But many American teens are often taught to drive by their parents, so they have these skills from an early age.
Everything is simple with the theory - you study the rules of the state in which you pass (I have Virginia), then in the application on the phone you train to take test tests, and then pass the exam in the nearest department of motor vehicles (department of vehicles).
Of course, in the queue for the submission of documents you have to defend several hours, but this turned out to be a simple step. From 35 questions, I made only one mistake in a situation not typical for Ukraine: “If you knock a deer on the road, where to report?” For some reason, I mistakenly chose not the police, but the DMV.
But the whole difficulty was to actually learn to drive! I had about a dozen “lessons” in an hour or two from completely different “teachers” - friends, colleagues and acquaintances with cars of different ages and sizes.
Exam - on your own car
It was not easy to find a "volunteer" who would agree to give me his car for half a day to pass the exam. In America, there are no special cars in DMV for this - you need to come in your own car, they don’t allow rented cars. I was lucky, and just before my exam my friend bought a brand new SUV and agreed to help.
You should sign up for the exam by phone. But it’s impossible to avoid many hours of waiting in the DMV: you get a number in one queue, then you wait until they call to submit documents to a specific window. They check their eyesight, take a photo and send them to wait until the instructor is released.
While many US government agencies provide many services online, the bureaucratic red tape in the DMV remains a matter of ridicule. The atmosphere is better conveyed by the animated film Zootropolis, where sloths work in the institution.
The exam itself lasted 10-15 minutes and was surprisingly simple. Leave the parking lot, drive along the street, make several turns at the traffic lights, and return. No parallel parking, complex maneuvers, exit on the highway (highway). The fact that in a state of law there can be no talk of any bribes, I think, is not worth talking about.
No car hikes on the road
Although I don’t have to buy my own car yet, having a driver’s license gave me incredible freedom of movement. Now I have already “rolled” over a thousand miles, mainly while traveling. And in some parts of the country, like Texas or Puerto Rico, I would not be able to see almost anything without being able to rent a car.
In Ukraine, I was driving only twice. But colleagues and friends insist that American drivers are much educated and calm. I can confirm that as a pedestrian and passenger in the USA I feel much safer.
In my experience in America, drivers more often pass each other, allow you to change lanes, and do not cut or go around traffic jams on the sidewalks. And if the driver later slowed down to red and left behind the stop-line or to the “zebra”, then he often “gives up” in order not to interfere with the pedestrians crossing the road.
Interestingly, the driving style is different in different states. For example, in my opinion, on the east coast, in general, everyone goes slower and calmer than in the south. Also, the state limits the speed limit on the tracks - from 60 miles (97 km) to 85 miles (137 km) per hour - in Texas.
Find ten differences
In general, American traffic regulations are generally somewhat different from European ones. For example, many traffic signs are indicated not by symbols, but by words - instead of "brick" - the inscription "do not enter" (not a person with a shovel, but the inscription "road works" (road works).
You can turn right here even with a red light, if there are no pedestrians and signs that prohibit. And at some unregulated intersections, the rule works: whoever arrives first has priority. Even the color of the traffic light allows pedestrians to cross the road - white, and for the movement of cars - the usual green for us.
By the way, with a foreign driver’s license, you can travel to the United States for only a few months, depending on the state, and to get an American license you need to pass a practical driving test, even if the driver has many years of experience.
It is also interesting that the largest cost for a car in the USA can be insurance - an average of $ 120 per month. But gasoline in America is very cheap - $ 2-3 per gallon (3,8 liters). And Americans measure fuel consumption not “the number of liters of fuel per 100 kilometers,” but “the number of miles a car will travel on one gallon of fuel.”
And Americans are also very unaccustomed to a manual gearbox, although there are much more large cars - from SUVs and pickups to trucks - on local roads than in Europe. Also, the lanes are much wider here, especially on large freeways.
The original column is published on the website. Ukrainian service "Voices of America".
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