Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Getting two wheeler driving license in India - My Experience

What does it take to get a two-wheeler driving license? How much fees do we have to pay? How long does it take to get a two-wheeler driving license? What should you practice to clear the driving test? The thought of even going to an RTO office would make people nervous - Hours of waiting under hot sun, inefficient processes, lousy work flow, lethargic employees, and the driving inspectors who think they are GOD. Each one of us, holding an Indian driving license, would definitely have a story to share. Here is mine. I'm going to share with you, my experience at the RTO office in Virugambakkam, Chennai.

I went to a nearby driving school (Anish Driving School) to apply for my two wheeler driving license. They charged me Rs.850. They asked me to show up on a Tuesday at the RTO office to get a Learners License Registration permit (also called as LLR). You need to show your identity/address proof to get the learners license. I spent nearly 3+ hours at the RTO office to just get an LLR.

I got my new Honda Aviator in August (3 months after I got my LLR). I started to learn driving with that. I have been using my scooter mostly for my daily commute to work. I wouldn't consider myself as an expert driver - but, I drive decent enough to maneuver through the Indian roads. I decided to take the driving test before my LLR expires. So, I scheduled my driving test for this week. I was asked to show up at the driving school by 8.45 am.

I went to the driving school, sharp by 8.45 am. However, the folks at the driving school were busy processing some last minute application forms. So, we left the driving school to the RTO office only by 9.30 am. I had to wait nearly for an hour outside the RTO office, under the hot sun. There is no shelter or place to sit outside the RTO office in Virugambakkam, Chennai. It is such a busy area with lots of shops & the road was crowded. Around 10.30 am, the driving school master came out of the RTO office, with a bunch of application forms, after paying the fees. He then asked us to assemble behind the Koyambedu Market for the driving test.

Two wheeler driving is typically self-learned. No body teaches for you. For the first time ever, my driving school master told us the rules of the driving test & asked us to go and practice for a while. We all rushed to the place behind the Koyambedu market, where the driving test was supposed to happen. Folks were lining up for their practice session, with lots of excitement & nervousness. It had rained in the morning. So, the area was exorbitantly sticky with vegetable wastes from the market. Some of the scooters even skidded, when the students were practicing there. All of us were seriously practicing to do an "8", with the two wheeler. It was like doing last minute preparations outside the exam hall. I had spent some significant time practicing over the weekend and today morning. So, I was confident enough.

The RTO inspector came to the spot at about 11.30 am. All of us parked our vehicles and watched him seriously. I have heard horror stories about RTO inspectors. They normally shout at people and some of them even throw the application forms on to your face. But the RTO inspector who came to the spot today treated us with some respect. He was patiently explaining the rules. Surprisingly, I didn't have much nervousness and there was no adrenaline rush. I did my "8" without any issues and I couldn't believe that I've CLEARED the driving test. I had to wait till all the other 20 folks completed their "8"s and some 10 folks to complete their car driving test. At 12.15 pm, we were asked to go back to the RTO office, for the photo shoot. We waited there for nearly an hour. Our driving school master came up with the application forms and asked us to stand in line for the photo shoot. All of us took photo shots and waited for another 30 minutes. We got our driving license (without lamination) and we had to stand in another queue to submit the same after verification. By the time the whole process was over, it was 1.45 pm.

We spent nearly 5 hours to get the driving license - though our presence was ACTUALLY needed only for 5 minutes (2 minutes to take the driving test + 2 minutes to appear for the photo shoot + 1 minute to verify the license). It looks like none of the processes/work flow has been automated. There is lots of places to fill/sign in the application.They collected nearly 5 passport size photos (3 during the LLR & 2 before the driving test). There is still bodies with ledgers, behind the counters. I saw computers only in the room where they took photo shots.

On an average, I believe at least 100 folks visit the RTO office in a given day. If each of them have to spend 5 hours (instead of 5 minutes), we are nearly wasting 20 man days everyday in a RTO office. If there are 10 such offices in Chennai, then we are wasting nearly 200 man days, everyday in just Chennai alone. Imagine how much time is wasted in waiting in RTO offices throughout India on a given day. Moreover, waiting in the RTO office really creates frustration. Since visiting RTO office is not an everyday affair, people & the government are not caring about it much. However, in countries like USA, the whole process will be completed in just 30 minutes. Getting a driving license in India isn't painful, but waiting in the queues really is. I wish government does something to minimize the waiting time in RTO offices. [Also read: Corruption free Chennai West RTO office]

I had taken some videos of the driving tests from my mobile. This should give an idea of what is expected from people during a two-wheeler driving test.