Driver’s License: too easy or just enough?


As SIS seniors pass their 18th birthdays, they can begin the relatively simple process of attaining a driver’s license: watch an hour-long video on road safety and pass a written test, a driving course test, and an on-road driving test. In fact, one can be certified within a week, given enough effort. 

For most people that wish to learn to drive, they usually attend driving school, where they complete 13 required course hours and the on-road driving test. People can alternatively choose to pass each test on their own by self-studying, with no required course hours. Both the driving course test and on-road driving tests have set courses with instructional videos online, so the difficulty is not high.

On paper, this is a fine solution; people can either pay for driving school to learn how to pass the tests, and more experienced drivers can skip driving school altogether and get the license quicker. Yet both methods are inadequate for effectively learning to drive. After all, with only 13 required hours for driving school, new drivers would only be experienced within the confines of the tests, but not the actual roads.

There are issues with the tests themselves, such as the emphasis on memorizing particular characteristics of each test, but the main issue is that many new drivers emerge from the testing centers with not much road experience. To ensure driving safety, the Korea Transportation Safety Authority should consider increasing the number of required course hours for new drivers to allow them to ease into actual driving conditions.

The minimal requirements to obtain a driver’s license leads to more frequent crashes. According to the World Health Organization, Japan and Germany, which both have strict requirements on acquiring a license, both have a road user death rate of 4.1 per 100,000 people, whereas South Korea has a staggering death rate of 9.8 per 100,000. 

Some argue that the death rate is not fully correlated with inexperience or lack of training in driving because many other factors can affect the death rate, such as driving under the influence, overspeeding, etc.  However, a study on the effects of the 2016 revision of the driver’s license test, where both the difficulty of the driving course test required course hours increased showed a startling 35.4 percent drop in accidents, and 28.6 percent drop in number of deaths. Thus, a strong correlation between drivers license requirements and the death rate can be seen.

So what is the solution? 

There is not much significance in increasing the difficulty for the written tests, as people will continue to merely memorize the tests. A more practical solution is to match the stricter policies present in Germany and Japan. Germany requires nearly 26 hours of course hours, which includes hours driving on the highway and at night. Japan too requires all new drivers to submit a report of practice with an experienced driver before being even allowed to take the driving test. More experience driving on the road is necessary to imitate what it is like to drive in real world conditions. 

New drivers should not be discouraged from driving, or else no one will try and get a driver’s license. The important part is building the foundational skills of new drivers so that accidents are prevented.