He has been driving a car since he was 13 years old in Iraq but never had to get a driver’s license.
Iraqi laws didn’t require drivers to have a license until about two years ago, when new laws were implemented, Iraqi immigrant Ayoob Akteyarlee, 24, said.
Akteyarlee has failed his permit test six times since he’s been in Bowling Green, having taken the test four times in Arabic and twice in English.
On Friday, Akteyarlee and 11 other participants got to review U.S. driving laws, including how to identify traffic signals and traffic signs, right-of-way laws and proper use of lanes, at the National Corvette Museum.
The participants, who were from Somalia and Iraq, and one Greenwood High School student, practiced their road skills in a driving simulator during the four-hour class.
The class was offered to international residents in Bowling Green who don’t have experience driving in the United States. Friday was the first class the museum has held for international residents, according to Katie Frassinelli, marketing and communications manager at the museum.
“Our (driving) laws are very different from other countries’ laws,” Frassinelli said.
The class was designed to help participants learn driving conditions in the U.S. with the help of simulators that are designed like cars and have a steering wheel, gas pedal, speed shift and brakes, said Kellie Steen, the museum’s education coordinator.
The two simulators feature three large screens used to help drivers navigate as they make stops at stop lights and stop signs and turn at intersections.
Rukia Mohamud, 25, who is from Somalia, crashed into one of the buildings while driving the simulator.
“This is why we’re on simulators,” Steen said as the group of modestly dressed women in hijabs and the cheerful group of men laughed.
“I was going too fast,” Mohamud said.
Most of the participants, especially the Somali women, had never driven a car before taking part in the class.
They didn’t know what the steering wheel was used for and needed help from others to learn what the gas pedal and brakes are for.
Debbie Willis, guest services manager at the museum, told one woman while she drove the simulator that the turning signal doesn’t turn the vehicle and that she has to turn the steering wheel after giving a signal.
“Good!” Willis said as the woman got the hang of it.
The things we take for granted on a daily basis when driving a car, such as how to operate a steering wheel and gas pedal, are completely new to people who have never been behind the wheel of a car, Willis said.
Akteyarlee said his experience on the simulator was “perfect,” but it didn’t feel the same as driving a real car.
There’s so many refugees who settle in Bowling Green who don’t know how to drive, yet have the desire to learn, said Dana Isenberg, who works as a receptionist at the International Center and drove a group of the international residents to the museum to take part in the class.
“You would have thought it was Christmastime, they were so excited,” Isenberg said.
Caleb Hagen, 15, who goes to Greenwood High School, also took part in the simulator class and said the overall experience was completely different than he thought it would be.
He said he had never been around people from different countries and was surprised to find out how outgoing and friendly they are.
“I didn’t know how hard it was for international people to get a permit,” Hagen said.
Obtaining a permit can sometimes take longer for international residents because of language barriers, and even when translating the written permit tests, the words sometimes don’t have the same meaning, Frassinelli said.
— International residents interested in signing up for a driving simulator class can register online at www.corvettemuseum.org or call 781-7973. The cost is $10 and includes lunch at the museum.