Youth Association for Social Awareness are pressing the government for an immediate change to the law on driving licenses after more teenage learners have come forward complaining of bribery in their tests.

The NGO YASA is calling for tighter legislation for obtaining licenses and payments made for driving tests after cases were reported to the organization of money being paid in return for guaranteed exam passes.

As it stands under the current law, if a candidate fails their test they must pay $100 to retake, more than the amount examiners can be bribed with to ensure a pass, which YASA’s President Mona AKl believes has helped create a culture of corruption in driving examinations.

YASA has already successfully lobbied for the introduction of compulsory theory tests in all driving examinations several years ago, but is concerned that driving centers across the country are flouting the law in the pratical exam by accepting bribes.

Akl proposed reforms to the Interior Ministry over a year ago but says they have not yet been approved. She accuses the government of stalling on the issue because many of the political groups are supporting the corruption. “They don’t want a new law, because they benefit from the current system,” which Akl says is stopping any tighter legislation being passed.

One young driver, Hala, who just took her test, wrote to YASA last week hoping to get the attention of the Interior Ministry and stop the illegal culture of bribery. The letter was then published on YASA’s website to serve as a warning.

“My decision to report this incident before I receive my license is to avoid the hypocrisy of profiting from the corruption of the system and then reporting it “ Hala writes.

“The approach is usually that if the applicant does not pay then the people in charge of the exam might fail them. It is needless to say that such extortion works well since all applicants are faced with the decision of either paying or failing,” says Hala.

On the day of her theory test, Hala says she witnessed applicants going in for a maximum of 5 minutes and leaving. “It turned out that there is someone inside doing the exam for them.”

Hala’s own father was forced to pay the bribe to the test office as she had already been driving for a couple of years without the license and he was worried they would fail her if he didn’t.

” Refusing to pay the amount, no matter how small it is, would mean failing the exam and having to repeat it and to go through the same procedure again,” Hala’s letter says.

Akl links the nation’s number of illegally-acquired licenses with the amount of car accidents on Lebanon’s roads. She is concerned that the longer it takes the government to acknowledge the need for change in the law the more lives it will cost. “I know the law takes time, but the government are not saying yes and more will be added to the number of people killed.”

“Year after year this number is still increasing,” Akl says, ” and with no immediate intervention it is expected to continue increasing to more alarming figures.”

“The Lebanese traffic law dates back to the 1960s and has very weak implementation. The problem with that implementation is that it is seasonal and not continuous.”

One recently qualified driver Lynn Hanna says the lax regulation of theory tests is still a problem. “My friend and I came out of our theory test laughing because it was so easy”
“I had heard that if you choose to do the test in English you have to do it yourself, but if you choose Arabic they do it for you.”

Lynn said she thinks without the $30 bribe that was paid by her driving school to the examiner she would not have passed the test. “It is scary that there are so many drivers, like me, who are not ready to be on the roads, and it is this that is causing most of car crashes.”

Akl says it is all-too-common, and with the government failing to regulate the licensing law it will only carry on. ” Even when we lobby to get the law changed and it is, it isn’t being exercised and the corruption is allowed to continue. It is still one of Lebanon’s biggest problems.”