Driving schools’ ‘theory trick’

Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Issue 980, Page 5
Word count: 656
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

Some driving schools in Macau have allegedly signed certificates claiming to the Transport Bureau (DSAT) that their students have taken 25 hours of theory lessons before they are being allowed to sit for a theory test.

The Macau Daily Times investigated into the story after a student from a Taipa driving school told the newspaper that he was asked to sign a paper, in order to prove to the DSAT that he has had theory lessons amounting to 25 hours, despite the school had never provided him such lessons.

He said the certificate was also signed by the director of the driving school.

When randomly contacted three local driving schools as a potential customer by phone, they all said theory lessons are not compulsory, but tuition fees around MOP500 still need to be paid.

According to Ordinance 222/98/M “Driving Schools and Teaching Regulations”, Article 17 says that the driving syllabus includes theory, technical or practical teaching and each of these types of teaching should last at least 25 hours.

Yet, the class hours can be cut down to no less than 15 hours if the student already holds a license for another type of vehicle.

Driving theory teaching, Article 18 says, includes topics on “road traffic, vehicle performance and maintenance, general rules for driving, driving in urban areas, on roads and highways, driving at night and under adverse weather conditions, responses to accidents or vehicle malfunctions, drivers’ civil and criminal liability, traffic signals and surveillance and other users of public roads”.

One of the three driving schools, which gives a one-hour theory class per night from Mondays to Fridays, told the MDTimes the students “won’t be able to understand the theories” if they don’t come to the classes.

However, the staff member did not mention that the lessons are required by law, but said that the students can stop attending the lessons when “they feel they’ve learnt everything”.

The staff member also said that it all depends on the students’ needs and there is “no problem” if the students do not have time to come to all the classes.

“You need to sign a paper [the certificate] at the end but it’s okay… you can choose to study [the theories] at home… most people do the same,” he said.

Another driving school contacted by the MDTimes said students usually only attend one or two classes “when they have something in the books that they don’t understand”.

The woman staff member said “there is no rule” requiring people to attend the theory classes.

“It’s okay if you don’t come to classes at all, but you still need to pay the MOP500 tuition fee,” she said.

She explained that it is an “industry practice” that students have to pay the fees for theory classes even if they are not going to show up in any of the lessons.

“We will sign a paper saying you have taken the classes, but of course we won’t say you actually didn’t… It’s [a matter] just within our driving school,” she added.

Meanwhile, the third driving school said that students can keep coming to classes until they’ve “the confidence to sit for the theory test… But of course you don’t need to go to the classes if you understand [all the theories].”

In response to the MDTimes’ inquiry, the Transport Bureau’s media coordinator said “driving schools have the responsibility to make sure that students have attended enough classes”.

She said that the driving school and the student may face charges of making false declarations, which according to Article 113 of the Road Traffic Law could result in a MOP1,500 fine or even criminal liability.

The bureau said no reports against such practice in driving schools were received by far.

The media coordinator told the MDTimes the bureau has been randomly inspecting driving schools’ operations on an irregular basis and will continue to communicate with the industry in order to prevent any irregularities.

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