“Are you serious?!”
I probably said that too loud. I know he was only doing his job, and, well, rules are rules, I guess. But I really didn’t expect to fail my scooter driving test.
“Can I try one more time?” Not until next week, he said.
I carefully considered the rules on the wall that included a warning of legal action taken against those who attempt to bribe the tester. In shame, I pushed my scooter past the line of people awaiting their fates, all looking barely of legal driving age.
Over the few days I will be posting a series on obtaining a scooter license in Taiwan. I took the test at the Hsinchu Motor Vehicles Office in Hsinchu, an easy building to miss if you’re not familiar with the area.
Before you go in for the test, make sure you do three things:
1. Get your health check for a driving test completed at a participating hospital. You may need to do a little research to find out where you can get it. In Hsinchu, you can get it at National Taiwan University Hospital, Hsinchu Branch. This could take some time depending on the time and day, so make sure you give yourself at least an hour to get it done. You’ll need to bring a couple passport-sized photos with you, or get them done at the hospital. (The health check is $120 NTD.)
2. Get two pictures in the size for a driver’s license. You can get this done at any quick photo booth. You can find one in the National Taiwan University Hospital or across the street from the Hsinchu Motor Vehicles Office. (Photos at the photo booth are $150.)
3. Find out the times that the written and driving tests are offered. You may need to time it right as they only open the testing rooms at certain times throughout the day. If you don’t want to come back again another day to finish it up, give yourself a lot of time as you’ll need to do almost two hours of lectures once you complete the driving test. And yes, the lectures are all in Chinese. (Total cost of the tests and the lectures is $450 if you pass everything the first time.)
It’s actually incredibly easy to obtain a scooter license in Taiwan. Then again, I’m sure it’s incredibly easy to obtain a scooter license anywhere. Study, practice, take the tests. Done. Taiwan is no exception.
In Taiwan, the test for obtaining a scooter license is done in two parts: the written test and the driving test.
Depending on who you ask, the written test is the most difficult part. I have friends and friends of friends who have failed the written test, not because they have no idea what they’re doing, but because the English translations that are available for each question can be difficult to decipher in the first place. I prepared myself in advance for this by taking the online test over and over again until I knew what to expect. You can find the test by clicking Taiwan Written Driver’s Test Online. Despite getting 96% and above every time on the online test, I came out of the testing centre with a 90%. Still a pass, but lower than I expected to get.
The driving test sounds like it should be easier than getting out of bed, but for many people, agonizing failure happens in the final 7 seconds. The course is made up of four segments: the railroad crossing, the traffic light, the pedestrian crossing, and the 7-second track of pure hell. You traverse the course making necessary stops behind the white lines and signaling when making turns, all while staying within the boundaries located on either side of the track. Rules for deductions are posted around the course in Chinese and English, so there shouldn’t be any surprises. In Hsinchu, a video explaining the rules in English at the entrance to the road test is available if you ask for English instructions.
Once you finish the first three segments you will then come to a narrow track with a sensor at the beginning and a sensor at the end. There are also sensors that run along the length of the track on either side, just wide enough for a scooter to fit through. Straying a few inches on the right or left will result in a very loud, obnoxious buzzer to sound, and the end of the run. You must do this in just over 7 seconds. You are only given two attempts at this.
“Piece of cake.”
I was last in line as I wanted to watch the mistakes the kids in front of me made, just in case I missed any important information as the tester explained the rules of the course in Chinese. I didn’t know about the video in English at the time. I rolled my eyes, and feared for my life on the road, as the boy in front of me needed help from his mom to show him how to start the scooter. He passed. I thought this was such a waste of my time. They may as well just hand me the license now. Look how gracefully I start my scooter! By myself!
The course was a joke. A real driving test in Taiwan ought to include an “act fast” portion. Like a scooter driver suddenly makes a right-hand turn from your left side at high speeds without warning. Or a truck suddenly pulls a u-turn in front of you on a busy, narrow street. Or an old man in a car speeds up, cuts you off, slows down, speeds up, and then makes a sudden stop right in front of you. All of this without signaling, of course. In fact, the entire test should be like this. Then it might be a little more realistic.
After successfully completing the first three tests without a single problem, I came to the dreaded 7-second track. I have heard of people taking the test 2, 3, or 7 times (that’s 14 attempts!) just to pass, but how hard could it be, really? With a smug grin on my face, I started out toward the entrance, already tasting that sweet, sweet license. Once my front wheel hit the sensor bar at the entrance, a small rubber bump, I slightly lost control as I past over it at a snail’s pace, and before my back wheel could enter the track I had already touched the sensor on the side. The tester smiled and waved me back to start again. Hmm. No problem. A minor annoyance. I started further back the second time to give myself enough forward momentum to cross the sensor. The smug grin had hardened into a look of dubious determination. As I crossed the bar, once again my front wheel touched the edge and the buzzer let out its humiliating guffaw. The tester smiled again and shouted, “That’s it! You’re done!” I looked at him in disbelief and drove the rest of the length, in just over 7 seconds, I might add (the intended goal).
Once I reached the tester, I politely asked him, “What do you mean ‘That’s it’?” He politely responded that I could only do it twice. A little less politely, I shrieked, “What? Are you serious?!” He calmly said, “Yes, I’m sorry. You can take the test again in one week.”
Argh! How is this even possible? I failed the easiest test of my life? And that kid who couldn’t even start his scooter passed? AAAAAAAH! I bottled my frustration and disappointment up inside of me and let it out with a couple episodes of Game of Thrones that night. Two episodes of satisfying blood, guts, and revenge later, I decided that I would need to take the test again. And next time I’ll be ready!
[To do: Find my confidence and insert picture here.]
Part 2 (Coming Soon)
Photos and What You Need (Coming Soon)