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Amerikan Uutiset News Archive

Jul 17, 2012

Column by Irja Praba: Driver’s License


In Finland it may be difficult to get driver' s licence if you are over 70 years old.

While I was visiting Finland a couple of weeks ago, a postcard had come from the DMV office advising me to renew my driver’s license. In Finland I had just heard that all people over 70 years old need to renew their licenses and the requirements include getting a doctor’s certificate, having an eye exam, and other safety measures depending on the individual’s condition. In 2013, the rules are going to change there again and the advice is to go get your license issues in order during this year. How I got my first driver’s license there came back to my mind and some of the details deserve looking at again.

In one writing class I wrote “How I got a driver’s license” several years ago. I am quoting some of the text here. “Cars were considered a luxury by the government decision makers and everything connected with cars and driving was priced and taxed heavily. The license cost a year’s savings; the driving school was even more expensive.  My friend Eeva and I wanted the licenses however, and when Eeva found an advertisement in a paper that students with a valid ID card were eligible for lower fees, we were ready. –It turned out to be a school for engineering students (teekkkarien autokoulu). The teacher was from there, too. In no time he classified the students into two groups: those who knew something about machines (teekkarit) and the others who could barely operate a can opener (us). His theory was made with higher mathematics and physics.

For the street test, however, you did not have to know what was under the hood and neither did you have to calculate the braking distances to the decimals. We persevered with the theory. - The second part consisted of driving on the streets. Automatic shift was not allowed. The teacher’s most frequently visited place was a low hill near the busy railroad station. The inspector, he claimed, always took the students there. Invariably the traffic light would change and I had to make a “hill start”. The car rolled back, the engine choked and quit, and the cars behind honked the horns. The teacher perspired and cursed. I clenched my teeth and decided that I was going to get through no matter what for all the monetary sacrifices I had to make. The teacher grew nervous, cynical and scared of the doomsday when we had to take the test, and roared:”Some females are not going to pass and it is not my fault!”

On the test day morning I was prepared for the worst. My stomach had been upset already for several days when I got inside the test car (not the same car used during the lessons) and expected to hear to drive to the railway station and the hill. The inspector asked me to drive behind a theatre (Kansallisteatteri), however. There the streets were level with hardly any traffic. I could stop and start easily, back up and do parallel parking with no problems.  I knew where the stop sign was and where the street became one- way. I passed the test! – I pinched money and starved for months to pay the fees, but I had the first driver’s license in my life in hand!

With those memories I joined the line in the DMV prepared to stand there a few hours and pressing my pocketbook tight under my arm to keep safe cash for the license. Suddenly the woman officer at the front desk pointed to an old couple and me to come forward. She took our documents and told us that we would be processed in a short time. We were. In 15 minutes I was photographed, passed the seeing test and had answered all the questions.  A little later the license was in my hand. I could not really say thank you to anyone while passing the line on my way out, but not even an hour had gone since I came in. The total cost was $54.25. Hail to America!