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Driving Schools Culpable
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Driving Schools Culpable

The Driving Schools Union last month announced an increase in the driving course fee, which previously, it was promised, would stay unchanged.
In Iran it is mandatory for those who want to obtain a driving license to take driving courses at designated schools. The courses consist of 16 hours of theory (that requires passing a written exam) and 24 hours of practice, meaning driving around in the city with an instructor in the passenger seat.
Each hour of driving practice is fixed at 180,000 rials ($5) while each hour of the theory class is 43,800 rials ($1.2), up from 150,000 rials ($4.3) and 36,500 rials ($1) respectively, making the driving school business a multimillion-dollar industry in the country, reports an article on asrekhodro.com.
Prior to 2005, attending a driving school to obtain a license was not compulsory. Also, there were fewer cars, and fewer members in each family owning a car.
But as urbanization pushed people into a car-buying frenzy, and the number of private vehicles began surging in the mid-2000, the fortunes of driving schools changed.
According to data released by the Tehran Traffic Police, 1.7 million new driving licenses were issued in 2014 alone. Given that each full course costs somewhere around 6 million rials ($170), a quick calculation will reveal that the annual turnover of the industry is sure to surpass 8,500 billion rials ($250 million). There are 1,474 registered driving schools currently active across the country, each claiming a share of nearly 6 billion rials ($180,000). It is not a far cry to call the schools a gigantic business.
The rates charged by the driving schools, as is the case with all goods/service  sectors, mount year-on-year, but the rate of traffic accidents fail to decrease. Road accidents still maim and kill hundreds of thousands every year.
The rate of road accidents and their ensuing human and financial loss is alarming. According to national statistics, the economic cost of traffic accidents is huge - 200 trillion rials ($6 billion) per year for 18 million registered vehicles. Each year, road mishaps kill nearly 28,000 people in Iran, and injure/disable 300,000 more.
According to the World Health Organization’s Global Status Report on Road Safety for 2015, four-wheelers (cars and light vehicles, heavy trucks, and buses) were responsible for a death rate of 48% (22% drivers and 26% passengers) in Iran in 2010. In 2012, a WHO report said Iran had the highest number of deaths caused by road accidents in the world.

  Driving Etiquette
One cannot help but wonder if the driving courses are actually imparting practical knowledge and skills to learners in driving etiquette and traffic navigation on the overcrowded streets, which should typically involve being courteous and staying alert. Failure to adhere to this behavior can, and has, led to increased risk of road mishaps, anxiety and road rage.
It is observed that practical driving lessons in Iran are not standard and need review and revision. Once the theoretical concepts are through, the practice of driving could also be influenced by the instructor’s personal style and preferences.
Another problem is said to be the driving test itself. It is generally believed that in the bygone years the tests were much stricter than today and the police officers in charge were of the “no-nonsense” type and simply uncompromising with the applicants, almost all of whom were young people. There are tales that many used to fail the road test several times for some very minor fault and or inability, especially when it came to the parking test.
May be then those applying for the tests were much smaller than they are now and the officers had enough time. Doing the numbers can offer some insight into what is going on and what lies ahead: three decades ago the population of the country was 35 million. Now it is 80 million and growing.  
An overview of the rules and regulations in other countries shows that driving lessons are not mandatory in many developed nations, and a person’s ability to drive is evaluated upon applying for a license.
In the United States and Canada, one should visit the local Driving Motor Vehicle office, complete a Driver License or Identification Card Application, pay the small amount ($33) of driver’s license fee, pass the written test, and then the road test.
The reasons behind mandatory driving lessons in Iran are unclear. Given the entry of a large number of vehicles on streets every month, profit could be the only motivation, particularly since those who obtain the license after passing the tests are not necessarily more skilled at driving than those without a license.

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