Nova Scotia driver's licence tests double ahead of April 1 changes

Access Nova Scotia has been bombarded with new applicants wanting to start the process of getting their driver's licence ahead of new rules that will be implemented Friday.

New graduated licence program means waits of nine to 12 months for learners

New Nova Scotia drivers will have to practice for nine months to a year under the new licensing system. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

Access Nova Scotia has been bombarded with new applicants wanting to start the process of getting their driver's licence ahead of new rules that will be implemented Friday. 

The province's transportation department says they've issued more than double the number of knowledge tests in the same three-week period this March as compared to last year. 

April 1, new rules will come into effect that will significantly lengthen the amount of time it takes to get a drivers licence.

Janet Udle says she has to change all the programs at her driving school to work with the new timelines. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

Nova Scotia currently has the shortest learner stage period — just three months after getting a knowledge permit, if drivers take an official training program. That wait is six months without classroom time. 

As of Friday, the wait will be nine months for those who attend driving school and a full year for those who don't. 

Numbers from the transportation department show they issued 1,714 knowledge tests in the first three weeks of March last year. This year, they've issued 3,749.

'Now's the time!'

Janet Udle, who runs High School Driving Academy, says she's received a number of calls from people confused about the changes. 

"We have sent to our students who do not have their learners an information sheet, and we've posted the new law at the high schools and also a few places around HRM," she said. "Now's the time!"

The timeline is being changed to give new drivers more experience, and have them practise through a number of different seasons.

Driving instructor Wade Hitchcock hopes students use the new rules to practise more. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

Udle says driving schools in the province are now trying to figure out how to adapt their own programs.

"Driving schools have to decide — are we going to spread it out over a nine-month period? Or are we going to wait until the student has been in the program for six months and then have them drive. So we'll have to make a decision about what's best."

Driving instructor Wade Hitchcock says he's heard of a number of teens who are turning 16 in April and are disappointed they won't make the cut. 

His biggest complaint with the current system is that students don't practice in between lessons because the timeline is so short. He hopes learners take advantage of the time and do their homework. 

"Now they might have a month between lessons, and we really have to tell the parents to get involved and get out and practice with them," Hitchcock said. 

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