Newmarket latest town to close drive-test neighbourhood to driving instructors

Several blocks of a Newmarket neighbourhood are now off-limits to driving schools, as a new bylaw aims to ease congestion from dozens of road tests that are conducted in the area each day.

Bylaw aimed at reducing traffic in residential area where 117 road tests take place daily

Lisa Lyons, director of legislative services for the town of Newmarket, says the new bylaw is aimed at addressing traffic concerns of residents. (Dean Gariepy/CBC)

Several blocks of a Newmarket neighbourhood are now off-limits to driving schools, as a new bylaw aims to ease congestion from dozens of road tests that are conducted in the area each day.

The bylaw came into effect last month, but signs went up in the area on Monday.

The move is a response to growing concern from residents about major traffic in the area, which is just west of the Newmarket DriveTest Centre, the only one in all of York Region.

Examiners use the area for driving tests: a total of 117 each day over four routes.

The area is bordered by Gorham Street in the south, Leslie Street in the east, Leslie Valley Drive in the north and Bayview Parkway in the west. Because it's an older residential area, there are few sidewalks, as well.

"What's happening is the driving schools are coming in with their students prior to the test and running the students through the routes at the same time," Lisa Lyons, director of legislative services for the town of Newmarket, told CBC Toronto.

"So you have 117 tests going on, and then all the practising from the driving schools that are happening at the same time."

The area of Newmarket that is now off-limits to driving instructors is seen in this map. (Town of Newmarket)

The bylaw prohibits driving instructors from bringing their students into the area. But it does not prohibit families from bringing their children in to practise. And driving instructors are still allowed to pick up and drop off their students who live within the restricted area.

'We have to pick up our students'

Some driving instructors hail the move, while others say it's unfair.

Ahmad Nawaz of All Star Driving said residents in the area don't seem to understand the bylaw.

The people who live in these areas, they have a point, I can understand their pain. A lot of driving schools are coming and practising in the area," Nawaz told CBC Toronto in a telephone interview. "But they need to understand we're local. We're not from a different town. We have to pick up our students, drop off our students in the area where they live."

He said residents sometimes "are harassing us when they see a car in the area. But these people are not teaching there."

Nawaz suggested that instructors from the area be allowed to get a special licence to teach students in the restricted area because they are a local company. The town of Newmarket said it didn't want to create a complicated licensing system.

"We didn't want to create a licensing regime where they're being penalized in two different areas with a municipal licence and also a provincial licence," Lyons said.

Kevin So, who has been an instructor with Young Drivers of Canada for 11 years, said he approves of the bylaw because instructors shouldn't be allowed to give their students an "unfair advantage" ahead of their test.

"They should have more bylaw officers coming around," So said.

So said he is used to abiding by restricted-access areas in other cities with DriveTest Centres. Toronto, Oakville, Brampton, Burlington all have such a bylaw in effect. Soon, Oshawa will as well..

The town plans a public education campaign to inform residents about what's allowed, and what's not, and enforcement will begin next month.

With files from Chris Glover