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May 26th, 2017 by


Earlier this month, the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) announced to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Transport that the scrapping of the K53 driver’s licence testing system is under consideration.

Some residents breathed a collective sigh of relief, while others criticised the move.

CompareGuru explores whether scrapping the system would be a good thing….

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Problems With The Current System

The K53 testing system has been criticised for years for being outdated and ineffective in creating competent drivers.

The system was created decades ago (though implemented in South Africa in 1998) . Obviously, times have changed. In fact, the K53 test is actually the system used in the UK in the 1980s, Arrive Alive says.

Many criticise the system for no longer being relevant to our congested, high-speed roads and highways. The road test does not evaluate how the driver fares on highways or speeds over 60km/h. 

With the K53 system being flawed and sometimes impractical, new drivers begin to replace what they’ve learnt with bad habits. 

In an interview at the end of last year, JPSA chairperson Howard Dembovsky said that the system is outdated and welcomed the idea of a revamp.

He also criticised the focus on passing the K53 criteria, rather than actually developing real-world driving skills.

“People go to driving schools to learn how to pass their licences, not how to drive,” he said according to 702.

RTMC CEO Makhosini Msibi said the system does not shape driver attitude and behaviour enough to curb South Africa’s high road accident rate. He  also noted corruption at licencing centres as a contributing factor to the situation.

In fact, many countries which had previously used the K53 testing system have since abandoned it in favour of newer ones.

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What Will The Change Mean?

Government has been mulling a revamp of the system for some time. News about a potential change first made headlines at the end of 2016. The RTMC, however,  announced this month that scrapping the system is under consideration.

Deputy Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga has since expressed the Transport Department’s support for the RTMC’s K53 review. 

The review could take over two years to implement however. 

But what are the alternatives? In a proposal first published in 2012 in a Government Gazette, a total overhaul of the system was proposed. In fact, an additional provisional licence was put forward. This would mean that drivers would need to complete the following to be granted a full license:

  • Complete a 12 month probation period
  • Submit a driving log book  of all trips taken that has been signed by the driver and an authorised officer
  • Have a red letter “P” displayed on the car for the twelve months
  • Not drive between the hours of 12pm and 4am. 

The Provisional Driving License will be suspended for 24 months in this period should the driver:

  • Comitted six traffic offenses
  • Been caught drunk driving
  • Exceeded the speed limit
  • Not completed the logbook
  • Carried more passengers than the car can hold

Read More Below on how you could be sentenced to two years jail for drunk driving! 

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Will Scrapping K53 Actually Fix Our Road Accident Situation?

Despite many people disliking the K53 driving test system, this doesn’t necessarily mean they think scrapping it is the solution to our problems.

After all, corruption at licencing centres won’t be fixed by a new test. Rather oversight and enforcement should be implemented more effectively.

Even the Department of Transport cites fake licences as a reason for many road accidents. So will changing the system somehow stop the fraud?

It is unlikely.

However, for those who are coming by their licences honestly, a new testing system could help better prepare them for the road.

More focus on defensive driving and what to do in emergency situations could reduce accidents. After all, the major cause of road accidents in SA is driver error.

In the meantime, we’ll have to wait for more news from the RTMC to see if we will truly be saying goodbye to K53.

Do you think scrapping K53 would be a good thing for South Africa’s roads? Let us know in the comments below…

  • Littlegiant S

    Don’t think so, but anything that would help shape driver attitude would definitely help reduce driver errors and ultimately accidents on our roads.

  • Labrat

    Okay, so how about reducing the age to 16.5 at which they can apply for their learners? This would make sense with bringing in the year probationary driving as people need to be able to drive ALONE by the time the are 18 to get to work/ university etc.

  • The Life

    I Agree change is needed .How but we start using VR 3 virtual reality to simulate the South African roads.I think this will change the mindset of an individual it will no longer be just about the test but it will make you think about the road,sighs and rules on the road as well .The simulation could be expansive but think about it how much we spent on road accident fund payout if we can eradicate the problem by creating proper drivers we can invest the money into the right place .

  • Jacques Pieterse

    make advance driving courses part of the criteria to obtain your license

    • Gert Joubert

      Even when you are a advance driver, if you dont want to obey the rules, it is not going to help.

      • Jacques Pieterse

        True, but at least it will give drivers the know how to get themselves out of a possible fatal accident by correctly handling the vehicle in an emergency situation.

  • Gert Joubert

    It is not going to help. There are too many drivers in South Africa who just ignore the road rules and laws. About all the serious accidents on the road is because people dont respect the law. First get trafic police to start doing their work and be on the roads and catch these ones who dont obey the rules.

  • Gert Joubert

    If they want to change something, then stop this code 10 drivers licences to drive motor cars. For each vehicle you must have a seperate licence. This people with a code 10 licence, driving a car are a big problem on our roads. Also hazard lights must only be used in a emergency. Too many drivers believe that hazards give you the right to stop where you want just to do some shopping or to chat to a friend on the side of the road.