Local people are worried that mainland residents will cause more car accidents in Macau once the mutual driving license recognition between mainland China and the SAR comes into effect.
The fears are predicated on an assumption that mainland residents will choose to drive more in Macau once the driving license recognition system is adopted. However, that may not be the case. Mainlanders might not have a strong interest in driving around the city, but instead a different purpose in mind.
The mutual driving license recognition between mainland China and Macau, which was proposed by the local government in 2017, has been put on hold, due to the controversy it generated within the local community.
Since its announcement, many people from the local community opposed the proposal, arguing that once it came into effect, it would eventually result in more mainlanders driving in Macau, more vehicles in the streets and more accidents.
Interviewed by the Times, a mainland resident and University of Macau student, surnamed Xie, who has been living in Macau for seven years, provided some insight into mainland residents’ thoughts when obtaining a driving license in Macau, the acquisition of which does not necessarily imply an intention of driving in the city. Xie obtained his driving license in Macau in 2018 and has no intention of actually driving in either special administrative region.
“If I had come here as a tourist, I would not drive in Macau,” said Xie, explaining that “this place is rather small, and it is troublesome to find a parking space. The same applies to Hong Kong.”
Xie said he applied for a driving license in Macau partly because it was more convenient for him to take courses and the examination in Macau instead of frequently visiting Zhuhai to learn how to drive.
But another reason was because holding a Macau license offers “convenience” to mainland residents who wish to drive in places other than Macau. Currently, Chinese citizens cannot obtain international driving permits using licenses registered from the mainland.
A Macau driving license holder can simply submit a document of their ID and Macau driving license, and the holder can acquire an international driving license from the Transport Bureau.
Government representatives in the Macau SAR, including Secretary for Public Works and Transport Raimundo Arrais do Rosário, and Transport Bureau Director Lam Hin San, said previously that the recognition had been designed out of consideration of residents who wanted to go to mainland China conveniently.
The two officials remarked that mainland residents can already obtain a Macau driving license without taking an exam in Macau if they possess a driving license issued by Hong Kong.
However, if Macau were to accept mainland driving licenses, it will be more convenient for mainland residents – particularly those from the nine Greater Bay Area mainland cities – to exchange their permits for a more internationally-recognized license.
Currently, European countries such as Germany and Belgium do not allow mainland driving licenses to be used in their territories unless the intended mainland drivers bring a notarized translation of their mainland driving license.
Some countries, such as the U.K., allow people with mainland driving licenses to drive within the first 12 months in the case of certain types of vehicles. Meanwhile, Portugal, Greece and many other European states disapprove of mainland driving licenses altogether.
In English-speaking countries, different laws and regulations are applied to mainland driving licenses, with the majority of these countries requiring an authorized translation of the document. Such requirements are not applied to Macau driving license holders.
In March, statistics provided by Hong Kong’s Secretary for Transport and Housing, Frank Chan Fan, showed that, in 2018 nearly 38,000 applications for Hong Kong full driving licenses were made using a mainland driving license.
During the same period, some 7,700 applicants were issued an international driving permit (IDP) by way of holding a Hong Kong driving license issued directly through a mainland driving license.
Xie said that the ease of driving in other parts of the world was the number one reason for him to get a driving license in Macau. “With my Macau driving license, I don’t need to take an exam if I wish to get an international driving license,” said the student.
“I didn’t have a driving license back when I first came to Macau, neither from the mainland nor Macau,” said a second mainland resident, surnamed Yu, who has been living in Macau since 2010. “I was told that a Macau driving license could easily help me get a mainland one.”
“There are many other reasons, such as the fact that a Macau driving license can be used to obtain an international driving license,” added Yu.