The ROP decision to allow men as well to take driving tests in cars with an automatic transmission is a dream come true for a lot of guys who struggle with or loathe the manual way ahead. Alvin Thomas shares their excitement
This is the painful story of a man who cannot drive a car with a manual gearbox. Omar al Balushi is a 21-year-old college student with a simple dream – a wish to own a pure-bred classic muscle car from the USA.
The youngster says he dreamt about owning the car for the greater part of his youthful days. He even put off getting a driving licence until he would be able to purchase the car of his dream.
So, when he fell in love with a 1969 Ford Mustang at a second-hand car dealer showroom in the UAE, he thought it was time to apply for his licence. But, little did he know the trials he would go through.
It took him about 20 classes before he could even learn about the mechanical synchronisation required to drive a car with a manual transmission.
“I didn’t know how to shift gears and the process of feeding in the clutch. It was something I had to learn from scratch,” he says.
“Even my car from 1969 comes with an automatic transmission, so I made quite a lot of fuss when applying for a licence. But the Royal Oman Police made it quite clear that only women can apply for automatic cars during driving tests,” he adds.
Fast forward to today, and Omar has still not got his licence and is still in his 13th attempt at cracking
However, there’s a glimmer of hope for the youngster to avail an automatic licence after the ROP made the announcement that men could also take tests in cars fitted with automatic transmissions from January 1, 2019.
This came on the heels of a survey that showed that a majority of driving instructors in Oman supported the move to allow both genders to choose the transmission type.
Brigadier Eng. Mohammed bin Awad Al Rawas, Director General of Traffic, had said in a statement that the decision came after “demands from the community to allow everyone applying for a driving licence to choose between automatic transmission and manual”.
“The decision was based on the study conducted by the General Directorate of Traffic and included all driving teachers in all governorates of the Sultanate.”
Arif al Zadjali, a driving instructor in Al Khoud, hails the decision of the ROP, saying: “It’s about time we made driving equal for all. Some people find it hard to drive manual cars, but no one buys them anyway, so why make them take the test?”
He adds: “This will ultimately help the instructors, as we can now offer classes with both automatic and manual cars. This should also encourage more people – who were earlier scared of the tests – to come forward and try out for a licence.”
Jishnu, a 32-year-old engineer in Oman, also asserts that this is a good move by the ROP.
“Earlier, a lot of people used to shy away from sending their kids to the tests as they thought it would end up costing a lot.
“Now, it’ll be easier as people who do not like driving cars with manual gearboxes can now try their hand at automatic. These cars are easier to drive, and that can reduce the stress on the learner during the test.”