The ability to drive is a critical issue as driving is key to exercising one of the basic human rights that all human beings should enjoy; freedom of movement.
With driving comes the convenience of moving from point A to B to C and back on your own terms. There is always the option of using public transport but in Zimbabwe combis (commuter omnibuses) have poor and unreliable service while taxis (cabs) are very expensive. On the highway, big buses can be a better option but the delays are many, given the numerous roadblocks.
Driving is thus key to exercising independence. One chooses where they want to go and when they want to go there. A good example of how driving, which may seem so unimportant to many people and which many take for granted is actually a key human rights issue is the case of Saudi Arabia. Women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive and for many years they have been fighting for that right. The inability to drive comes with the burden of being escorted everywhere, working on other people’s time and always feeling like a burden. Imagine not being able to go to the doctor, to the shops or to visit a friend when you want to because you need to be escorted by a man.
Driving can be the difference between having a job and not having it. Employers do not only look at education, skills, and experience when they are hiring. They also want to know if applicants can drive as many jobs require people to travel for work.
Driving however comes with great responsibility; the first step of exercising that responsibility is to ensure that you are a properly and legally licensed driver. Here are some quick steps on how you can do that:
Step 1: Buy the Highway Code. It costs $2-$3. The Highway Code is the “Bible” of road rules in Zimbabwe. The rules in the Highway Code are legal requirements. You cannot choose whether you want to or do not want to follow them. You must follow these rules at all times. Failing to follow these rules can lead to arrest, payment of a fine, or even being sent to prison.
Step 2: Read the Highway Code from beginning to end and understand it!
If you have any questions ask your friends or family members who drive. We mean those friends and relatives who are legally licensed to drive not the kinds who drive without licenses or those who bought their licenses. You can also find driving schools that assist students who want to get a provisional license.
Step 3: Visit the nearest Vehicle Inspectorate Department (VID) station/depot and make a booking to write your test for your Provisional license (also known as the Learner Driver’s License). DO NOT buy the provisional license! That is corruption and you can be arrested for it.
Step 4: Write your provisional license test. This costs US $20 which must be paid and receipted by an officer at the time of booking at the VID station/depot where you will write your test.
Step 5: Look for a registered driving school to begin your driving lessons. You can verify that a school is properly licensed by asking them for their Registration License as a driving school with the Safety Council of Zimbabwe. Driving lessons cost an average of $3 to $5 per lesson.
Step 6: Do your driving lessons. You are required by law to do at least 30 lessons. Always make sure that you have the instructor sitting next to you as you drive because it is against the law for a Learner to drive alone. If after the 30 lessons you still feel that there are things you haven’t mastered pay for and do more lessons until you are good at those things.
Step 7: While you are having your lessons, continue reading your Highway Code and observe closely, the mistakes that other drivers make. This helps you to know how to react in different situations after you are licensed and are driving on your own.
Step 8: Once your instructor is satisfied that you are ready for the road test, s/he will book you to go and take the test. The test is taken at the VID station/depot in your town. This booking costs US $20. DO NOT pay your driving instructor to certify you for the road test when you know very well that you are not ready. That is corruption and can get arrested for it.
Step 9: Take your road test. While at it DO NOT make the following mistakes:
- Over-speed (recommended going at 40-60 km/hr but always observing speed limits).
- Hit the drums when reversing through the drums.
- Go over any crossing line at traffic lights/robots.
- Move your car when it is supposed to be stationary e.g. at traffic lights/robots.
- Roll your car back during hill-start.
- Hit the curb/pavement when parallel parking.
- Go through amber (orange) or red traffic lights.
- Fail to give way to traffic with right of way at any intersection.
- Turn in front of oncoming traffic.
- Fail to give way to pedestrians when filtering in.
- Fail to give way to pedestrians at zebra-crossings.
- Cut a corner.
- Proceed through a STOP sign.
- Forget to use your indicators when turning left or right.
- Forget to put your hazards on when approaching a traffic light that’s not working.
- Forget to check your mirrors frequently.
It is advisable that you do not talk to the VID inspector as this may distract you and cause you to make mistakes on the test. DO NOT pay the VID Inspector to get the license! That’s corruption and you can be arrested for it!
Step 10: Collect your driver’s license (yourself) from the VID depot where you will have done the road test. This ensures that the document is authentic. At first they will give you the paper license and then send the metal license to you through registered mail at any ZimPost office.