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January 15, 2018

I know this is hard to fathom, but hold on to your hats, or your hoodies.  Bribery and graft is running rampant throughout the country, and the government is always on the alert to bring such activities under control – that is after they divvy up their own share. Right now decision makers in Athens have turned their sights on civil servants who call themselves driving examiners. The idea is that people are paying off the examiners in order to get their driving licenses. And some, aren’t even bothering to attend driving school, which is mandatory – instead, they just pay the instructors to list them as being in attendance and passing the written exam with flying colors. (Hint...since Greek drivers are the most dangerous creatures on Europe’s highways, perhaps something sinister is afoot).


Well, in an attempt to combat these situations, significant changes in the process of obtaining a driving license are in the works at parliament and several new systems expected to go into effect as of May 1, 2018. Initially, the most important change concerns the establishment of a control room through which the prospective driver will no longer have contact with his or her examiner. That’s right . . . they’ll be alone in the car, while the examiner sits in front of a computer, perhaps even in a different city, making sure seat belts are fastened and the correct signals and turns are being used. According to the explanation of the Deputy Minister of Infrastructure and Transport, Nikos Mavraganis, cameras and microphones will be installed in the cars of the driving schools so that during the examination, the examiner will be able to see through the internet the prospective driver, observe the way he drives and to give him orders. At the time of the examination, only the driving instructor and no one from the motor vehicle department will be in the car with the candidate driver. In other words, examiner and examinee will have no physical contact, making it impossible for money to change hands (unless, of course, someone devises a way to exchange bit coins through their iPhones). The minister went on to explain that for each test the examiner will be selected through a lottery-type process and will change every day. It is expected that this way the bribing of examiners to issue a driving licence will be abolished, while at the same time driving tests can be given on a regular basis without waiting for an available examiner, who may be on a personal day, a sick day, a holiday, a name day . . . or just off having coffee.


While that part of the new bill will deal with sticky-fingered examiners, another section will go after the driving school instructors, who, let’s face it, are also responsible for putting death-squad drivers on our public streets to the tune of 150,000 per year.


Apparently, some culprits are accepting cash (no credit cards please) for issuing a certificate of completion for the mandatory 20 hours of instruction while so-called students are sipping latte at the nearest Grigoris (Greece’s answer to Starbucks).  The government will deal with this situation by instituting daily checks at driving schools to verify the presence of prospective drivers in the theory lessons. Therefore, all driving schools must install a special computer system from the ministry to monitor their premises and to keep tabs on students and insure their rumps are in their assigned seats. Actually, they could have asked my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Bumberger . . . she simply used a set of cards, and knew exactly who was playing hooky.


Now, if the government could only find a way to insure driving students implement what they learn, instead of using their vehicles as deadly weapons, perhaps the country’s grizzly title of “deadliest drivers in Europe” will become a thing of the past.

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