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The Driving Test

Watch out… it looks like I’m getting a driver’s license!

Okay, so it isn’t that awesome — I’ve been driving in Israel for four months using my license from Maryland.  I can use the foreign driver’s license for only one year; now I’ll be able to drive in Israel for at least another 10 years.

To get the driver’s license, I first had to have my eyes checked with an optician.  This only took about 5 minutes.  I was given an official looking green form that specified (I think) that it is safe for me to drive with glasses.

Next, I had to go to my doctor to have the form filled out.  The doctor is supposed to specify any medical conditions that may impair my driving.  I’ve never met my doctor. I picked him on a recommendation and this would have been our first meeting. I picked him, in part, because he speaks English; however, he was on vacation and I met with a substitute doctor. The substitute doctor, of course, did not speak English. We stared at each other for about ten minutes. There was a crude attempt to communicate. I think she may have asked if I have diabetes. Anyway, she eventually decided that I was in good health and checked all the boxes in the “no” column. A few official stamps and a signature on the green form and I was done.

After getting the doctor’s approval, I had to travel to the Ministry of Vehicle Licensing to get the green form approved for the next phase. This simple service is only done at the district level offices. In addition, it is only done on Monday and Wednesday between 8:30 and 12:30.  After a 45 minute drive and a 30 minute wait in line, a clerk stamped and signed the form in three or four places.

The next step is the driving test.  However, to take the driving test, you need to be certified by a driving instructor. I found an instructor in Ra’anana who is originally from Great Britain.  He is a former Israeli police officer and a former driving test evaluator.  I took a lesson with him and he explained everything I would need to know for the test. For instance, I drive automatic cars using my left foot on the brake. That may sound strange since most people use the right foot on both the gas pedal and the brake, but that’s how I do it. My instructor informed me that it is illegal to break with the left foot in Israel.  If I do it during the driving test I’ll fail.

He went over all the basic laws and basically treated me like I had no clue how to drive.  I was tempted to argue with him on a number of topics (like breaking with my left foot), but what’s the point?  Turning right on red is also illegal in Israel.  He is pretty sure that the only reason why it is still legal in most US states to turn right on red is because of the existing infrastructure — it would cost too much to change it!  I really wanted to explain that turning right on red just makes sense — it allows traffic to flow without adding much risk.  The biggest risk is probably the risk of hitting pedestrians.  The cross-walks here are always full of pedestrians, so turning on red is impractical anyway.

Anyway, I took the test. It was pretty stressful. There were two other students in the car and we all took turns. I went first and my drive was by far the easiest and shortest. At first, I thought this must mean that I’m such an awesome driver that there was no point in testing me any longer. Later, I discovered that I actually committed a driving violation and that I could fail the test as a result, therefore, perhaps my test was short because there was no need to continue the test. What did I do wrong?  I approached an intersection and the road that I was traveling on turned into a one way road moving against me (so I could not drive straight).  I also could not turn right (because there was no road to the right), so I turned left. Oops. The road that I turned on to was also one way and, although I was heading in the right direction, I turned into the right lane instead of the left lane. The truth is, I didn’t realize that it was a one way road!

Apparently it was not a major concern because I passed the test. My instructor is handling most of the leg work which is really nice.  He is supposed to cough-up my temporary license this week and then the permanent license should arrive in the mail in a couple of weeks.

Categories: Israel Tags: ,
  1. AF
    2010-12-27 at 8:36 am

    I had the same driving instructor. I thought he was hysterical. The first lesson was driving from Ra’anana to Holon to the Misrad HaRishuy and back. It was pouring rain up and back. He told me what a great driver I was because I used the mirrors. The second lesson was through and around Kfar Saba and Ra’anana, and ended with my driving test (which I passed). Except for when I had to actually go to Misrad HaRishuy in person, Neil took all my documents back and forth for me. All in all, not a bad experience.

    • 2010-12-27 at 8:47 am

      He is quite funny. After driving with me for about 10 minutes, he announced that I learned to drive either in California or Florida because I was too causal about it. I did, in fact, learn to drive in California. After that, his running gag was that after I finished my lesson (or test), I would revert back to driving with one foot up on the dashboard.

  2. shana
    2010-12-27 at 10:06 am

    Wait for this – you have to go for a theory refreshers course in about 3 years time. Seriously.
    Everyone who commits a certain number of traffic violations or everyone after 3 years of holding an Israeli license has to do this.
    These courses are held in the evenings, in some remote place. They are once a week for 3 weeks and last 3 hours each. They are in Hebrew and VERY boring. You have to do it – you get a certificate at the end and need to keep it with your license. Sometimes there is a test but I couldn’t work out who actually has to take the test and why. I didn’t, but I think Yoav did.
    As irritating and inconvenient as they are, they are actually a good idea. They refresh your memory about all those road rules that you had no idea about or had no idea that you had forgotten. In my opinion, Israeli’s should be made to go once a year, every year for the whole time they hold a license. That way there may be less carnage on the roads…

    • 2010-12-27 at 10:36 am

      Awesome! So far, I’ve only learned how to get the license, nothing about how to keep it. This is quite shocking. For reasons that I cannot explain, I assumed I was finished. It seems silly in hindsight — why should I expect it to be so easy? 😉

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