Starting today, car drivers won’t be able to simply pay $25 for a license—as many are believed to have done in the past—but instead will have to pass a series of standardized tests before being legally allowed to hit the road.
Officials at the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation announced the policy Sunday and said they hope the tests will help reduce the number of traffic accidents and bring dangerous roads up to international standards.
“We need drivers who clearly understand both traffic rules and regulations and how to drive,” said Pao Maly, deputy director of transportaion at the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation’s.
He added that such regulations were especially necessary because Cambodia is a member of Asean and drivers may one day be allowed to cross freely among the region’s borders.
“We particularly want to avoid accusations of illegally selling licenses,” Pao Maly said, referring to allegations that officials in the past sold licenses for $25 without administering a driving test.
Officials at the ministry said Sunday the test would consist of a computer test of traffic rules and regulations followed by a driving test.
Potential drivers would have to pass the computer test before moving on to the driving one.
Pao Maly also boasted that the computer tests would be almost impossible to cheat on because no one would be allowed in the testing room except the potential driver and the computer.
Reaction to the new tests was mixed Sunday among driving school officials and students.
“It has both positive and negative impacts,” said Nong Soya, an accountant for both the Chey Chumneas and Mittapheap driving schools.
The new system would reward driving students who studied conscientiously, she said, but might hurt would-be drivers from the provinces, where computer access and literacy are sometimes low.
“A majority of [driving] students come from the provinces,” she said. “Some of them are illiterate and many have no knowledge of computers, so this will be very difficult for them.”
The price of the new tests has yet to be announced.
“We have not met with officials to discuss the price for the computer service,” said Srey Neth, an official at the Dai Tumneup driving school.
She said she’d heard the price would be at least $10, probably more, and that she did not know whether driving school tuition—usually about $55 a month—would be increased.
Pao Maly also said the fee would be more than $10 but did not specify an exact price.
He said anyone who failed the computer test would have to take 15 days of driving lessons. If they failed again, they would have to start over and submit a new application.
Results from the test will be available immediately after completing it, he said.
Pao Maly added that those who already have driving licenses will not have to take the new tests.
Thy Somanith, a university student who is also studying at the Chey Chumneas driving school, said the tests were a good idea but worried about how they would affect his classmates from the provinces.
“It will be OK for me,” he said. “But there are some students from the provinces who don’t know how to use computers.”