Without the availability of an English version of the road rules, passing the test depends on your ability to memorize the answers.
By Stuart Hill
Hoping to get your driver’s license in Taiwan? If you are from one of the many countries and states whose license Taiwan doesn’t recognize, then you are going to need to pass the written and road tests before you drive a car legally.
In my previous article on learning to drive in Taiwan at a driving school, I covered the whole experience of what you need to do to pass the driving test. Yet the written test, which is a pre-requisite to the driving test, is also a challenge.
Hoping to learn what is correct driving behavior? Well, currently there doesn’t seem to be an English version of the Taiwan road rules, which is a major hassle to anyone trying to learn them. The rules are available in Chinese of course, but although you can take the written test in a range of Asian languages and English, none of the Taipei bookstores I visited sold a version in English.
The TAIPEI MOTOR VEHICLES OFFICE (MOV) allows you to download PDF files of the complete database of English questions that will be used to create your written test. You will be redirected to the database published by the MINISTRY OF TRANSPORTATION AND COMMUNICATION (MOTC).
This is where you realize you now need to achieve what millions of Taiwanese kids have done for decades to make it to the top of the education system; you need to cram! You must memorize answers that are marked incorrect and correct in case they appear as is during your written test. As one Taiwanese friend remarked: now you know, just deal with it.
The question database contains two types of questions: true and false questions, and multiple choice (1 out of 3) questions. Topics can be roughly broken down into 3 categories: street signs and markings; road rules (including penalties); morals and ethics. If this last category seems a little strange, take a deep breath and relax; it really can be.
Faced with roughly 1500 questions to memorize, cramming might seem a daunting task at first. But don’t worry, you begin to get the hang of them after the first few pages. Here are some sample questions to think of:
- Q: Do not drink if you drive. Do not drive after you drink True or False?
- Q: What is the legal age to apply for a regular automobile driver’s license? 1) 17 years old, 2) 18 years old, 3) 19 years old.
Now the Hard Part: The English is Really Bad!
The only complicating factor is that the database is badly translated. Questions are harder to understand because of poor spelling, bad grammar, and awkward sentence structures.
- Q: If the inner lane is closed for road construction, can drivers use the road are required toers? 1) drivers may comply with the “road are required toer open for the time being” sign and drive on the road are required toer carefully, and then comply with the “using road are required toer prohibited” sign and stop using road are required toer, 2) drivers may use road are required toer throughout the route under construction, 3) drivers may use road are required toer if they don’t see any police officer. (spelling and grammar is quoted verbatim)
Correct answer? Well obviously 1) because it took the most space to explain.
- Q: If visibility drops to an extremely level in the freeway due to heavy fog, heavy smoke, heavy rain, and gusty winds, vehicles are required to: 1) keep their speeds 60km per hour or faster, 2) either reduce speed to less than 40km per hour or pull to the road are required toer and stop temporarily and, at the same time, turn on warning lights, 3) continue to move at normal speeds.
Correct answer? 2) of course.
Even a basic spell check would go some way to making the questions easier to comprehend.
- Q: If derivers acquire driiver’s licenses by unlawful or inappropriate means, the motor vehicle registration department will cancel such licenses and request for immediate return of such licenses. True or False?
- A: True
Then there are often issues of terminology, such as:
- Q: Which of the following vehicles is reuqried to be provided with bumpers: 1) small trucks, 2) buses, 3) trailers and large trucks.
Some questions just seem to go against the grain of reality. Here is a sample:
- Q: If drivers overtake the front vehicle without the front vehicle giving in and pulling to roadside, such drivers shall be fined. True or False?
- A: True
The Ethics of Driving?
The moral and ethical questions are often the most interesting. Here is a short sample:
- Q: Yield anf tolerance are the best manifestation of driving morals. True or False?
- A: True
- Q: If you find passengers who have infectious diseases or bring stinky items, you can refuse to serve them politely. True or False?
- A: True
- Q: When you drive, you are required ton’t rush any minute and any second; and are required ton’t neglect any minute and any second. True or False?
- A: True
Translations can be tricky too:
- Q: Interchanges shall mean three-dimensional ramps that connect freeway to fast roads, and connect freeway or fast roads to other roads. True or False?
- A: True
Which brings me back to the “how” of passing the exam: don’t expect to understand what you are reading, just remember what the correct answers are. And don’t tell me you would actually like to know what the rules are…
Information about how to apply for the road exams, what questions you will encounter in the test, and even answers to commonly asked questions are available online via the TAIPEI MOTOR VEHICLES OFFICE (MOV) and the MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT and COMMUNICATIONS (MOTC) websites. The problem is that the relevant information is very poorly managed in English, with old and new versions of the same web content poorly categorized and organized. Internal website links are difficult to navigate and navigation trails often poorly marked. It is extremely easy to get lost as redirections often occur between different departments.