The money raised through traffic fines should be used to pay for driving lessons and tests for young people from hard-pressed families, says left-wing Podemos. The party governing in coalition with the socialists (PSOE) says that although public transport passes for free or at a discounted rate are available for people with very low incomes, outside of large cities, such methods of transport can be virtually non-existent. And without being able to drive, young adults are unable to apply for jobs.
In Spain lessons are only legally permitted through an accredited driving school, which is usually state-run. It is against the law for a parent or other adult to take a learner out in their own car with L-plates, even off-road. Tests are expensive for families struggling to make ends meet, and an estimated 73 percent of candidates will fail their first one at least.
Whilst in Spain, the ‘rush’ to take driving lessons on the very day young people become legally old enough is more of a ‘stroll’ – most youths will spend their university summer holidays taking lessons, or even leave it until they graduate – not being able to get about could seriously hamper their chances of finding work. In Spain, lessons and tests can only be taken from the age 18 upwards, although most brand-new drivers tend to be in their early 20s.
The proposal is for the under-25s to be given financial help to learn to drive and get through their tests where they are ‘out of work’, in ‘severe monetary difficulties’, or both. This help could be financed through the fines paid by drivers for speeding and other breaches of road traffic law.
Podemos points out that Spain’s youth unemployment rate is one of the highest in the Eurozone, exacerbated by the pandemic. Podemos claim there is a ‘Catch-22’ situation, in that if youngsters do not have jobs they cannot afford driving lessons, which then limits their chances of finding a well-paid position or even a job at all. This is born out by the fact that the number of driving tests passed has dropped in the last few years and driving schools are reporting much lower takings.
Rural Spain, which is struggling to hang onto inhabitants and avoid a population wipe-out – and, especially, to attract people of working and childbearing age – would benefit the most, since public transport is not only practically absent, but the nearest sources of jobs, in large towns or cities, are too far to travel to by bus or moped.
Also, learning to drive a car and doing so legally would mean young adults who do not have university education or qualifications beyond compulsory schooling would be able to apply for jobs such as delivery driving, or train to be taxi or lorry drivers.