Sunday, October 22, 2006

Drive On

We’ve had our fair share of deaths and injuries on Thanet roads, caused by ‘foreign’ drivers. Some would argue rather more than our fair share too.

The Mail on Sunday reveals that: “Thousands of immigrants and asylum seekers are legally allowed to drive on our roads even though many would be incapable of passing a British driving test, safety campaigners have claimed.

Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander faced calls to end a legal loophole entitling people who have an overseas licence to drive in the UK for a year before taking a test.

Critics claim foreign licences are often bought on the black market in their country of origin or handed out after tests lasting as little as five minutes.

The Department for Transport denied foreign licences were a safety risk, adding: ‘We don't want people here for a short period of time to have to go through the process of getting a licence.’”

Fair enough?

Except that I have both a Saudi Arabian and a US driver's license to add to my UK license. The US license, from Florida, demanded a driving test and a multi-choice exam. Not as difficult as our own test but still formal and regulated.

Ironically, my Saudi license was earned differently. This was many years ago and in 'The Magic Kingdom' they demanded that foreigners all drive on a local license. The procedure was relatively simple.

1) Go to the hospital for a medical and an eye test with a copy of your national license.

- The doctor asks: “How are you feeling today Mr Moores?” I reply “Fine thank you.” “Good” he replies and signs my form, directing me on to the optician.

- Sitting me down, the optician asks me to read the lowest line on his wall chart. “It’s upside down” I tell him. “Very good” he says and directs me on to the police station as my next stop.

2) At the police station, I spend four hours in an Arab scrum before a donation of cash gets me my Saudi license. An official obligingly punches a whole through the photo on my US license, to prove he has seen it, making it completely useless in future.

Next stop, and some months later the Thanet Way.


Anonymous said...

We are apparently incapable of policing our own driving licence, car tax and insurance system with the AA suggesting up to 2 million vehicles out of 30 million are on the road illegally. What hope have we in policing some rather dodgy looking Czech and Polish cars in Thanet?

James Maskell said...

Today is the anniversary of the tragic death of John Living at the Victoria Lights and yet not one thing has been done to make the junction safer apart from every so often maintenance being done on the traffic lights. Cars still jump red lights and turn right off College Road when they arent mean to. No one feels any safer at this junction.

Weve been told that a new traffic system could be put in (microprocessor operated) in the coming financial year which would improve the traffic system but as far as I know, funding has not been secured for it. Massive risks are being taken with the lives of local residents not to mention other road users who do drive safely. With Westwood Cross and the proposed housing estate, this junction will have even more pressure on it. This is a very serious situation that needs to be dealt with soon and I urge KCC to find the necessary funds to make this proposed traffic system a reality working with local residents in order to make this system as effective as possible.