Even though the minimum age for driving in Malta is 18, there is a considerable number of luckless and frustrated twenty-somethings who still do not possess a driver’s licence – and not for lack of trying. While there are some for whom not driving is a personal lifestyle choice, the vast majority of Maltese youngsters can’t wait to obtain that much-sought-after and almost mythical legal document signifying a blessed release from the horrors of public transport.
Malta’s Car Culture
The Maltese have embraced a private car culture – there is at least one car in circulation for every two people – and this places high social pressure on young people to obtain their license as quickly as possible. Owning and driving a car signifies increased independence and grants freedom of movement: you’re suddenly free to completely avoid Paceville on a weekend outing and look for an alternative instead. Yet the system in place often seems to deliberately obstruct such a goal. Statistics show that almost 60% of people fail their driving test first time.
Getting that licence…
With such odds, it is important to know exactly what to do and what to avoid if you want to get behind the wheel in a time- and cost-effective way. Getting a driving license can quickly become a massive financial burden if you’re not careful. While reform of the system is on the horizon for 2010, the costs involved can still quickly shoot up into the hundreds of euros. Most of the problems encountered can be effectively eliminated by being prepared to not let them arise in the first place. This means preparation has to start from before you take your first lesson.
Tips to take to heart
I speak from experience: at the time of writing I have been taking regular driving lessons for almost two years and have been failed three times on my test. Nevertheless, in retrospect, the torturous experience allows me to understand what I did wrong and to see what I would have done differently. Take these tips to heart:
- Set your agenda by answering these questions: why do you want to learn to drive? Are you sufficiently motivated? For how long are you willing to pay for regular driving lessons? Be methodical when choosing your motoring school: do not rush ahead and simply sign up with the first familiar sounding service. You would regret doing this later. Even if a particular school has been recommended by a trusty friend, look that service up. The internet is your best friend: search for reviews and clients’ reactions.
- Obtain a pass in the theory test which is held at the Test Centre in G’Mangia, easily found by taking the first left to the side of St Luke’s Hospital. The test is multiple choice and can be taken either in English or Maltese. You do not need to wait for your instructor to give you the go-ahead. To prepare yourself, you can obtain a copy of the question bank in CD format from the Floriana Driver Licensing Unit against a fee of €6.9. You can also peruse The Highway Code on which most of the questions are based.
- Make a list of 7 or 8 schools to contact by visiting the website of the Transport Authority. Try and include some small or lesser known names as these tend to have a smaller number of clients, which in turn may result in a shorter waiting list when the time comes for you to apply for the test.
Choosing the right driving school
Know what you need to ask each school before you enlist. Do not allow yourself to be sidetracked. Take notes as to the answers given so you can make an informed decision later. Questions you should definitely ask include:
- The duration of lessons: some schools only offer 45 minute lessons while others range between one hour up to 90 minutes. Decide according to which duration is in line with your goals and which you would feel most comfortable with.
- The fee for each lesson: this may range between 12 euros up to 22 euros and is frequently linked to the duration of the session. Make sure you know clearly what the fees are beforehand and also that your school won’t up the fee without your knowing.
- The frequency of the sessions: establish a routine beforehand and stick to it. You might prefer two shorter lessons each week or one longer one every fortnight. Whatever your choice, keeping a rhythm to your lessons will help you develop a learning pattern.
- Any extra charges: some schools ask for a fee which acts as insurance against any potential accident or damages to its cars. Also, most schools require you to pay a service fee when applying for the test on your behalf: while the ADT fee is € 23.95 some motoring schools may ask for a fee of up to € 80 when applying on your behalf.
- Don’t believe rumours: Check things out – make sure to check with the relevant authorities about anything you might hear before assuming it is true. For example, it is a common myth that in order to switch motoring schools once lessons have started, one has to pay a high fee. In truth, If your motoring school does not nominate you for the test within 12 months, one simply has to file a fresh application form.
- Establish a conversation with your instructor: Ask for help in identifying weak spots at the end of each lesson and request feedback the next time round. Do not be afraid to complain if you feel time is being wasted from your lessons. Ask questions and do not allow yourself to be guided along as this will simply increase the number of unnecessary lessons you have to take.
- Keep to time frames: Be aware that if your motoring school does not nominate you for the test within a year of starting lessons, you must inform the ADT in writing that you are still interested in obtaining the license. Failing to do so will cause your application to expire.
Above all…Aim to learn to drive rather than learning simply to get your license. Try and enjoy the experience and do not think of it as a chore.