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Blog » Is the K53 a practical and an up-to-date testing method in South Africa or is it outdated and become obsolete ?

Is the K53 a practical and an up-to-date testing method in South Africa or is it outdated and become obsolete ?

Is the K53 a practical and an up-to-date testing method in South Africa or is it outdated and become obsolete ?

To begin this analysis we need to ask the question, when was the current legislative format named and approved for South African roads?

The term K53 was a reference number of a project by the South African government for a set of safety rules intended to be allocated for our South African road systems.

The project was launched between 1978 / 1979, and approved and implemented in South Africa over a three-year period from 1980 to 1982. The rules and regulations were not tailor-made for South African roads. It was basically  taken from the UK traffic system at that time in core and base and implemented into the K53 project for South African roads.

In short we copied the core of existing road safety rules tailored for another country and implemented  it in our country.

Although we have adopted the K53 system from the UK, we implement it far more strictly than the UK themselves. In the UK it is not compulsory the pull up the hand brake every time you stop at a stop street and drivers only need to pull up the handbrake at a ‘long stop’ (red traffic light). In South Africa you need to pull up the handbrake every time you stop. However, hardly any of the licenced drivers do this because it is impractical.

In the UK, if your car rolls slightly before pulling off or in a parking bay, it is not considered a fail. They will only fail you for a dangerous roll of the car. However, in South Africa they mark the test so rigidly and impractically that they do fail you for a little roll. Some traffic departments are a bit more lenient than others, although that should not be the case. All traffic departments in South Africa operate under the same laws and should abide by the same rules and standards.

There have been minor changes that are not formally listed in the K53 but they were rather practices adopted by examiners and traffic departments over time.

One example of such a minor change is that, previously, to go over a speed hump, you had to be in second gear. Nowadays it is acceptable to go over the hump in third gear. Another example is that, previously, if you wanted to stop your car, you had to gear down gradually, whereas nowadays you are allowed to apply your  brake and clutch in any gear in order to stop.

Furthermore there is no consistency throughout South African traffic departments. In Cape Town you have to book a learner’s test  in person at a cost of R68. In Johannesburg you can book a learners test without going to the traffic department online at a fee of R110. A driver’s test costs you R135 in Cape Town and R210 in Johannesburg. In Johannesburg your driving school can even book it online for you and confirm the test on your behalf for a fee of R400. It is not possible in Cape Town. Why the difference in rules and laws in different parts of South Africa when they are all linked on the same Enatis computer system.

Another question to ask is have the roads and road networks changed since the regulations were implemented in 1981?

 Yes – dramatically! Even the amount of road users increased a lot. The K53 which was initially not even developed for South African roads, have a lot of checks and procedures that have become obsolete.

Just as with any industry technology and information increase and improve so fast that certain information soon become obsolete – what we know now becomes outdated very soon. In any trade and industry you can think of, there is continuous, progressive improvement as more efficient ways of doing things are developed. Regardless of numerous changes in the traffic system such as increased number of vehicles, more freeways and others, the K53 has not changed or improved since 1981.

In other countries they have adopted and implemented superior methods like testing a certain amount of night driving, rain driving, freeway driving, day driving, marking the test far more practical rather than technical.

Another problem is that, when you go for Code 10 licence testing, it is only required that you do one parking from the right and a straight reverse and to drive on the road. If you pass this code, you automatically qualify to drive a code 08.  However, in order to pass a code 08 test  you must complete a parallel parking from both the left and right sides, make a three-point turn, alley dock from right and left – all which Code 10 testing omits! So the question to be asked how does code 10 qualify you for code 08 completely and or is part of the code 08 test that’s omitted in the code 10 test obsolete but still practiced. There is an obvious undeniable error in this process.

An option that needs to be reviewed of how  can you get a Code 10 licence never having learnt parallel parking, three-point turn, alley docking from both sides  be authorised to drive a code 08 on the road, never being tested for these skills? One may argue it should be a gradual upgrade of licences, one licence should be independent of the other due to the vast difference in required skills for each.

Why are we using a system that has been developed for a different country in the 1970’s, that was implemented here in the 1980’s and how can it be that driving instructors still have to teach these methods?

Driving instructors generally know their job very well. In order to be qualified to teach, you must renew your instructor’s licence every single year – you repeat the entire test!

There are two types of examiners – one is a traffic officer. The other is someone who gets 3 – 6 weeks of training and then you can be an examiner for 15 years without any refresher course. Often inexperienced employees pass students with minimum knowledge.

To demonstrate how old the test is – one of the items you need to check on a car, is the choke. These days cars are built with automatic chokes in the engine therefor there is no longer a lever to be pulled inside the car. Students are not taken on freeways for tests – hence they mark so rigidly in some areas and neglect testing in other areas.

Do the existing rules and regulations still benefit road users?

They do 100%. Having the skills of controlling a car makes you a better driver. However, it can be drastically improved and made more realistic. Areas that are currently being overlooked should be tested and obsolete areas of the test should be removed.

Why hasn’t the government updated the K53 test?

I think it boils down to priority, cost, jobs that could be lost if more efficient strategies are formed and plain effort.

It would take a team of experts to review the current test. There would also be a cost and job implication on how do they do the switch? Do they retain the pen and paper system, or do they rather start using tablets? Some people may even lose their jobs with new testing processes and procedures. Nowadays they use webcams and do not need two photos although they still ask for two photos. It may be to secure an income for the photo booth photographers.

How does it hinder students from passing?

Even the traffic officers at the traffic departments do not follow the K53 methods in their personal driving capacity. They use and keep what is practicable and leave out what is not needed. Students spend a lot of time learning obsolete tasks which they will never repeat once they get their licence. It is a hindrance to ask students to learn something they won’t use in real life and mark it rigidly.

How does The Drive Company beat the system and get our students to pass?

Well, we don’t beat the system – we comply with the requirements. We have been teaching for 18 years and have handled government contracts servicing thousands of students at a time. In total we have serviced more than 30 000 students and provided more than 500 000  hours of training. We have handled large numbers of students and a high volume of training, becoming very efficient and effective in what we do.

We see the cracks in the wall and the flaws in the system and things that are obsolete. We see things in depth due to the enormous amount of training that we’ve provided. We are experts at what we do. We speak to examiners and traffic officers, we comply and get you to pass your test.

The purpose of this article is just to say how we feel about the K53 but we teach you the K53 100% as it is our job to comply as a government registered vendor. We teach what the government regulates. We have mastered the most efficient way of teaching the K53 system due to the number of hours we’ve spent in training. We have devised an efficient way of teaching by breaking it up into segments which makes it very easy for students to learn.

What are some international practices that South Africa can learn from?

In many countries abroad they require a basic minimum of driving hours which we don’t have here, having a minimum training number of hours will ensure the applicants going for a test will be ready and pass the first time and hence this will unclog the long waiting period for test dates at the traffic departments… The basic hours overseas including night driving, rainy weather driving and freeway driving.. All of which is not required by South African standards. There are many students waiting to be tested that are nowhere near ready to be tested. If we incorporate some overseas practices, it will unclog the system and increase pass rates drastically.

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