Sri Lankan Driver’s Test

Before you will be licensed to drive in Sri Lanka, you must pass the following test of your knowledge of proper procedures while driving in Sri Lanka. You have fifteen minutes to complete the test.

1. In Sri Lanka, traffic a) stays to the right like in the US, b) stays to the left like in the UK, or c) efficiently uses the entire roadway.

2. When approaching a blind, uncontrolled intersection, you should a) slow down drastically and proceed very carefully, keeping a careful eye out for intersecting traffic, b) take your foot off the gas in preparation for braking and watch out for intersecting traffic, c) maintain full speed and honk your horn loudly.

3. You are overtaking a private bus on the right, which is itself overtaking a trishaw on the trishaw’s right, thus your right tyres are very near the right edge of the pavement. Looking ahead, you see a large lorry coming from the other direction.You quickly calculate that you will not be able to finish passing the bus before the lorry is upon you. You should a) brake sharply to let the bus pass you, move left behind the bus, and wait for a later opportunity to pass the bus, b) honk your horn to let the bus driver know that he needs to move to the left, running the trishaw off the road,  so that you can move to the left to avoid the lorry, or c) push the accelerator to the floor, flash your lights, honk your horn, and finish passing the bus, trusting  the approaching lorry to take steps to avoid a collision.

4. When approaching a “zebra crossing,” you should a) reach into the back seat to get your camera and prepare to take some great, close up pictures of wild zebras as they cross the road, b) slow way down, prepare to stop to allow pedestrians their legal  right-of-way to cross the street, or c) push the accelerator to the floor, honk your horn, and try to intimidate any pedestrian who attempts to enter the crosswalk.

5. When making a right hand turn from a side road onto an A class road, you should a) come to a complete stop and wait at the intersection until there is a sufficient pause in the traffic both on your left and on your right to allow you to safely complete the turn, b) never make a right hand turn onto an A class road, instead, once there is a pause in traffic from the right, turn left and then find a safe place to make a U-turn, or c) slowly edge your vehicle out into the traffic coming from the right until they are either forced to stop or run into you, repeat with the traffic on the left, thus blocking both lanes of traffic on the A class highway, and then complete your turn.

6. (This question requires an explanation  for drivers who have not driven in Colombo. Even though you have never seen such a thing,  a “traffic light” is an electrical device that displays a red light to traffic at an intersection who  are then (theoretically speaking) expected to come to a complete stop; a green light to traffic that is allowed to continue unimpeded; and a yellow light to traffic to indicate that they should accelerate immediately to high speed as the traffic light will soon be turning red. )

If you are driving a trishaw and you approach an intersection where the traffic light is red, you should a) come to a complete stop until the traffic light changes to green, b) come to a complete stop, look both ways, then continue if it is safe, c) ignore the red light altogether.

7. When approaching a sharp curve in a highway that might cause you to skid if you maintained your current rate of speed, you should a) slow down so that you can safely stay in your lane and maintain control over your vehicle, b) maintain your speed so that you can practice controlling your vehicle under skid conditions, c) maintain your speed, honk your horn loudly to warn oncoming traffic, and cross over into the oncoming lane  to “flatten the curve” and avoid the skid.

8. A man is in the middle of the road. He appears a bit disoriented, taking a few steps this way, then that way. You should a) flash your lights to warn other vehicles of the danger, stop your car in such a way as to protect the man from being struck by other vehicles, then exit your car and gently lead the man to safety at the side of the road, b) slow way down, honk your horn to alert the man to your presence, then pass the man giving him a wide berth, c) maintain your speed, honk your horn loudly and continuously, and only turn your car enough to just miss the man.

9. A puppy is in the middle of the road. He appears a bit disoriented, taking a few steps this way, then that way. You should  a) maintain your speed, honk your horn loudly and continuously, and only turn you car enough to just miss the puppy, b) slow way down, honk your horn to alert the puppy to your presence, then pass the puppy giving it a wide berth, c) flash your lights to warn other vehicles of the danger, stop your car in such a way as to protect the puppy from being struck by other vehicles, then exit your car and gently lead the puppy to safety at the side of the road.

Answers:

1. c) Almost all post-colonial Asian countries have abandoned colonial era laws which only served to publicly humiliate subjugated peoples and visibly demonstrate the authority of the colonists. Singapore is the exception and who would want to end up like them?

2. c) While it is true that no one driving another vehicle (except, perhaps a bullock cart) can hear a horn with their windows closed, their air conditioning on, their music blaring, and talking on their cell phones, it is well known that (insert your deity here) hears all and will protect the righteous from harm. Of course, if you are feeling a little guilty about some little transgression or other, perhaps you might want to pick another answer and then head directly to the temple/mosque/church of your choice.

3. c) Studies show that nine times out of ten the oncoming lorry will slow down to avoid a collision. As for the remaining one time out of ten, you will be pleased to know that you will be doing a valuable public service as an organ donor in a Sri Lankan hospital.

4. c) If the rules of the road gave right-of-way to pedestrians, cars would never get anywhere!

5. c) The added advantage of this procedure is that you also allow other cars from the side road to make this turn as well. Thus, the side road can completely block the main road until the side road is empty of cars.

6. c) Sorry. This is a trick question. There are no rules of the road that apply to trishaws, just as there are no limits to the fares they can charge!

7. c) On the off chance things don’t work out, then see the answer to question 3, above.

8. c) The pavement is for cars, not for pedestrians!

9. c) The killing of an animal is really bad kharma and the killing of a defenseless little puppy is really, really bad kharma.

How did you do? If you got eight or nine correct, congratulations! You will be a typical, successful, happy driver in Sri Lanka for your entire life (however long that may be). If you got six or seven correct, then you will be  an obstacle on the road, slowing traffic on the highways of Sri Lanka. However, you have passed the test as long as you promise to apply the lessons learned on this test to your driving habits in the future. If you got fewer than six correct, try again tomorrow!

Tim :^)

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4 Comments

  1. John Pepple said,

    January 23, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    Hilarious! It reminds me of Cairo and Taipei, except that this sounds worse.

    Sorry I haven’t looked at your page in a while.

  2. uurgh said,

    April 17, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    oh man…i took the questions seriously…and guess what!! *rolls eyes*

  3. Atheist said,

    December 4, 2011 at 5:40 am

    lol…I took the questions seriously…Didn’t get a single one right…I guess I won’t be able to drive properly in SL 😉

  4. Gary Van Den Driesen said,

    August 24, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    From my own recent observations over 2500+ kms of touring SL (with a highly talented and experienced SL driver at the wheel) this is a totally accurate insight into the Resplendent Isle’s traffic “behaviour”. Utter chaos combined with a casual laid back dexterity from all road users. A nightmare for Western drivers – and apoplexy for anyone from Sweden!

    But guess what? It all works brilliantly. SL drivers/riders/pedestrians appear to have worked out how to truly SHARE the road, and apparently manage to do so with mutual respect, astounding talent and good humour. Very few cars exhibit even minor dents.

    And Road Rage? What’s that?

    Conclusion – If you have only driven in developed Western nations then you do not yet know how to drive (I humbly include myself).


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