In Reply to: Exactly how do they train euro drivers? posted by MikeW on October 04, 1999 at 15:14:17:
I'd say it's quite a bit tougher to get your driver's license in Germany than it was in the US, at least how I experienced it in the US.
You must be at least 18 years old in order to get your license, although you can take the lessons before your 18th b-day. Classes include both theory and practical driving classes.
There is a minimum number of hours of driving classes that you have to take before you can take the driving test, and these lessons have to be taught by licensed driving instructors, i.e. you can't just run and get a learner's permit when you're 15 1/2 and drive mommy around town in her minivan. I think this minimum is 40 hours (or am I just remembering that number because it's the same for the Private Pilot's License? Hmmm...). Anyway, these 2 requirements combined make it quite expensive to get a license (on the order of $1000-$1500 if I remember correctly) -- you have to pay a licensed instructor for at least a certain number of lessons.
You also have to take a certain number of special driving classes (part of the total 40 hours, or whatever the number is). These include night driving (i.e. after dark) and autobahn driving. (Any others? Help me out here.)
Lessons are taught in manual transmission cars only, i.e. most people can not get a driver's license in Germany unless they know how to drive a manual-transmission car. I believe there are only few exceptions to this rule, namely if you're handicapped, e.g. you don't have 2 working legs. In other words, if someone has a German license and 2 working legs, they know how to drive a manual-transmission car.
The practical test is usually a pain -- they'll make you parallel-park backwards uphill into a really tight space in dense city traffic, and things like that. Most people fail the first time around.
So once you've gone through this ordeal, which takes up to a year or so, you get a provisional license. I don't remember the details, but basically you're on probabtion for 2 years with this license. If you're caught committing significant traffic infractions ("severe" speeding, etc.), your license will be suspended.
Compare that to my experience in New York, where I did a 20-question written test before I could make the appointment for the driving test. I'd already had an international license from another country for a couple of years, so I drove myself to the driving test (in my own car, which I had insured using the international license). The instructor gets in, we chit-chat, he finds out I'm German, and he has me drive around the block and parallel-park in an enormous space, then signs the form and says "congrats, you pass."
As more and more things are standardizing across Europe, I think driver's license categories have been standardized across the EC. The individual countries still issue their own licenses, and they still have their local requirements and tests, but these are all being standardized.