Muscat: ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again’ is an old adage that some in Oman need to come to terms with as they make attempts to obtain a driving licence.
Some expats have spent thousands of rials and taken the test more than 25 times, only to be told to try again, but the testing process remains fair, a Royal Oman Police spokesman told the Times of Oman, saying the right to drive can be granted only to those passing the test.
“There is no discriminatory law which prohibits or delays grant of licences,” said a DG of Traffic official under the Royal Oman Police.
“It depends on the drivers. This is not about the procedure. There is nothing like that, and these are just rumours. We don’t discriminate in any service we provide.
“Everybody is equal and whether you receive your licence depends on how you drive,” the official stated.
His comments were backed by a number of driving instructors while some expats shared stories of their repeated attempts to lose the L plates.
Zahidul Islam, a Bangladeshi national, received his driver’s licence after 25th attempt, all made in a span of two years. He spent OMR1,500.
“Each time they failed me for some small mistakes I made, and on my seventh attempt, I was almost cleared until the evaluator said my final parking was not correct because it touched the white line.
“I didn’t want to give up, which is why I tried so many times. I work as a salesman and that required me to drive. During the time when I didn’t have my licence, I commuted by taxis, and it was not easy on my pocket.”
“In the beginning, I took eight to 10 classes between the tests but later, when the number of tests increased, I took four to five classes between them. Anyway, I am happy now and have been driving for the last two years. It’s been good.”
Khalid, a driving instructor operating in Muscat, said he hasn’t noticed any discrimination and was aware of expats, both males and females, who received their licences swiftly.
“A lot of expats get their licences in the first attempts. Only yesterday, I had an expat female student of mine who got hers in the first try. So it’s not like if you are an expat, there is discrimination. If you drive well, learn the rules and follow them right, you will get your licence.”
Mohamed Nasser, an instructor who has been teaching driving for the last 17 years, said the number of attempts one makes depends on his or her ability as a driver. “Are you a good driver or a bad driver? Sometimes people drive well but in their early tests, they are nervous when the evaluator comes and sits with them. It is not about being an Omani or an expat. It’s the same for everyone.
“I had a student sometime back who passed his test in 21 attempts. I was his sixth instructor. It’s just that if people try to not feel the pressure, it will be easier for them.” Ahmed, another instructor, said the maximum tests he had seen people undergoing were about 13 or 14. “Sometimes,those wanting a licence don’t listen to the instructions properly. At times, they are too nervous. A few of my students have told me that they get tired waiting for their turn, so sometimes that affects their driving. However, be it an Omani or an expat, I have seen people succeeding in first attempts while some take a while.”
Zia, an Indian expat, has clocked up nine failed attempts. “I am a pretty good driver until it comes to being tested. When the assessor comes and sits next to me, I become very nervous. I didn’t feel any bias, and I think they want to make sure that we as drivers can drive confidently before getting the licence.”
Abdullah Al Balushi, another instructor who has been training people to drive for the last 20 years, said he has seen people making 26 attempts but not with him.
“I have seen some people struggling to obtain licences and have heard that a few people received theirs in 24 or 25 attempts but they were not training with me. I have noticed that usually the evaluators are easy on people after they have appeared in 10 or 15 attempts.”
Shailsuman Singh, an Indian expat female who passed her driving test in her 11th attempt after spending more than OMR1,000, said she was frustrated because the driving instructors don’t communicate properly.
Listen to instructions
“There is no transparency, no clarity. I almost failed my drums and slope test the first time because of lack of any clear instructions. I didn’t know what to do. There is no bias on the basis of being an Omani or not, but I would prefer clearer communication between the instructor, the learner and the evaluator. Sometimes, they just speak in Arabic and you are clueless about what they are saying. The instructors need to be trained properly about giving instructions and dealing with their clients well,” she said.
Khalfan, a driving instructor who trains in Qurum, said: “It takes about two days to get an appointment for a road test and there is always competition for the first few slots. So it usually takes people two to three hours, and sometimes less, for one’s turn. In Qurum alone, 200 people undergo tests every day.
“Among the reasons people fail in these tests is jumping in front of other cars in the next lane, without indicating, bad car control and lack of training. The police are normally strict in the first attempt, but there is no discrimination on account of being an expat. You will get your licence if you can drive well.”
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