Getting a license to legally drive on the chaotic streets of Mexico City was long a matter of just showing up at a licensing office with the correct documents, signing some forms and paying a fee.
No evidence of actually being able to operate a motor vehicle or knowledge of road rules was required.
And although a new law that went into force last year changed that, the Mexico City government abolished the driving exams in September without offering any explanation. Now it says that a new, extended licensing scheme will go into effect early next year.
Starting in March, all new drivers will be required to take mandatory driver exams before licenses are issued, an official at the city’s Mobility Secretariat (Semovi) has confirmed.
Prior to sitting the exam, planning Undersecretary Laura Ballesteros explained, new drivers will also have to attend driving schools, which will assess their skills and determine whether someone has the practical ability to apply for a license.
“. . . You take a course, they do your theoretical and practical evaluation . . . [then] they’ll give you a document and your certificate and you go to Semovi where they’ll ask for a copy of your identification, medical exam . . . [and] certification,” she explained.
Finally, applicants will need to pass an online exam before getting their license, a final step which Ballesteros described as “closing the circle” of “training, evaluation, certification and examination with the best international practices.”
The support of driving schools in the licensing process will significantly reduce the administrative burden and associated costs on the city government, Ballesteros explained, adding that because most of the process happens outside Semovi, the new system will also help to stop corruption.
People wishing to obtain a license will have the freedom to complete the process at the certified driving school of their choice.
“The schools are going to be fundamental, we’re going to go through an international certification process so that they help us to teach people [how to drive] . . . The test is coming back for first-time drivers, not just young people or adolescents but also for any adult that doesn’t have a license and wants to get one in Mexico City,” she said.
Thirty driving schools have already registered their intention to complete the accreditation process so they can participate in the training of new drivers. Basic driver training is expected to cost between 2,000 and 3,500 pesos (US $105 to $185), depending on the number of hours.
Ballesteros said that additional costs associated with getting a new license would not benefit government coffers but would be an investment in the personal training of new drivers, stressing that the return of exams was necessary because “a car at more than 50 kilometers per hour is a lethal weapon.”
However, a current online poll by the newspaper El Universal shows that there are mixed feelings about the government’s plan.
Fifty-five per cent of respondents agree with the measures because “many people don’t know how to drive.” But 26% said they were uncertain whether they supported it because people “will pay bribes to pass” while 18% opposed it because of the additional costs involved.