2020 has been the strangest year ever. It started as any other year, but in March it all changed. In my family we have had more changes, in this case, driving changes. My 84-year-old father in law has returned his driving license, while my 18 years old daughter just got hers.

Time to say goodbye

traveling steps car

When my father in law, Pedro, was eighteen-year-old, he and the rest of the boys his age, were sent to do the mandatory military service (keep in mind that we live in Spain and back then we were suffering the Franco regime). The first day in the camp, a Captain asked “who knows how to drive?” My father in law raised his hand and immediately, he was assigned to be the personal driver of a very important General who lived in Madrid.

This could have just been a simple anecdote, but there is a little extra to it… The issue, is that, the stupid Captain asked who knew how to drive, not, who had a driving license, nor specified who knew how to drive a car. My father in law had never driven a car, he only knew how to drive his dad´s tractor… Now he had a problem

To pot all of this, his first assignment was to drive the General´s brand new Mercedes Benz from the port of Barcelona to Madrid (about 400 miles). In the 50´s this drive should have taken no more than two days. It took him 5 days to reach Madrid. He always explains that in order to practice, he drove over 20 hours every day. By the time he presented the car to the General, he was an avid driver.

During the next two years he drove the General all over Spain. He even states that once Generalissimo Francisco Franco almost jumped in his car.

 At the end of his mandatory military service, the General, gave my father in law a small present, it was a leather wallet, and said “inside, you will find, something you have never had”. It was as you can imagine, his first driving license. 

This last June, after over sixty years of driving, my father in law has decided that he shouldn´t drive anymore, and has voluntarily returned his driving license. His records are amazing, just four speeding tickets in all those years, come on! I already have more tickets than that.


traveling steps scarlet letter

On the other hand, this last June, my daughter got her driving license.

I don´t know how this issue works around the world, but here in Spain, getting your driver’s license is a big deal. One of the things that shocks foreigners is that we have to wait until we are 18 years old, and you are not allowed to practice at all before that day. If you are caught be the police practicing with your 17-year-old kid, you will get a 300€ ticket, plus a reduction in 4 points in your driving record. Our driving license, comes with 12 points, that will be taken away one by one each time you get a ticket.

So, how do we get our driving licenses?

First, we have to go to a special school called auto-escuela, and pay 250€ so they can teach you. Once you pay, they hand you this wonderful 300-page book with all you need to know to pass “the written test”.  According to my daughters driving school, it will take 4 months for a kid to be ready for the test. Now is the time to pay 200€ extra in order to take the test.

Once you pass the written test, you will start with your driving classes. These are one-hour classes with your instructor driving around town. The cost of each class is 60€, you are required to attend a minimum of 25 classes, 

but the normal is that the kids take at least 35 classes. This means that your driving classes will cost you about 1800€. Whenever your instructor decides that you are ready for “the driving test” you have to pay another 200€ to take this new test. 

If you are lucky and you pass “the written test” and “the driving test” at the first attempt, you will have paid about 2450€. But guess what, only a 24% of the kids, pass the test on their first try. If you have to go for the second chance, you will have to pay about 1000€ extra.  

When you get your driving license, you don´t get those 12 points yet. You only get six of them. If you do not have any ticket in the first year, you will get your extra six points. During this year kids have to put a sign in the back of their car, it is a big sign that reads just a Capital L. It is kind of the Scarlet Letter, so everybody knows that you are new at driving.

In many families around Spain, is a custom to pay for the driving license as the birthday gift when the kids turn 18 years old

This is a link to a short video of my daughter driving with dad for the first time!