More Shanghai residents than usual have signed up for driving courses since the central government announced that stricter rules for obtaining a driver's license will go into effect at the beginning of next year.
The increase shows that prospective drivers are rushing to get their licenses under the looser rules, though most will have a difficult time evading the tougher driving exam.
Five of the city's top driving schools, as rated by the Shanghai Automobile Driver Training Trade Association, reported at least a 20 percent increase in the number of people who have signed up for lessons since the Ministry of Public Security issued the amended rules Monday.
About 650 people registered for courses this week at the Shanghai Tongce Driving School, which usually gets about 400 new clients each week, according to a marketing department employee surnamed Kong. "We have seen a 30 percent surge in the number of people who have signed up for our courses," Kong told the Global Times.
The Shanghai Junti Driving School has seen the number of calls inquiring about lessons rise 20 percent to more than 100 in recent days, said Zhang Yingwang, an employee at the school.
Zhang said it was clear that the increase was a result of the tighter rules. "More people have called to ask for details about the amended rules, concerned that they will make it harder for them to get a license," he told the Global Times.
The schools have not changed either the length or the cost of their courses since the government's announcement, Zhang added.
A Ministry of Public Security spokesperson said the new rules will make the test harder for student drivers in an effort to improve road safety, according to a report by the Xinhua News Agency.
However, those hoping to get their licenses before the rules change don't have much chance of succeeding, according to Lü Gaosheng, director of the Shanghai Transportation Management Office. He pointed out that anyone who signs up now won't be able to get their licenses before the stricter rules take effect. "People are blindly rushing to pass the test," he told the Global Times.
It currently takes at least four months to get a driver's license in Shanghai, including training and waiting times, a saleswoman from the Shanghai Dazhong Driving School told a Global Times reporter posing as a prospective student.
Although Lü refused to comment on whether the stricter rules would make for safer drivers, he did say that they will give drivers more experience dealing with different road conditions.
More than 500,000 people take driving courses in Shanghai each year, Lü said.