Calgary

Parents frustrated as long wait times continue for new driver testing

Driver exam wait times continue to drag on, after the NDP government changed the private system to a public one.

Available test dates can be months away, sparking calls to return the system to private operators

New drivers who hoped to get behind the wheel before the 2019/20 school year have been frustrated by long wait times for testing. (Associated Press)

Driver exam wait times continue to drag on, after Alberta's previous NDP government changed the private system to a public one.

The current administration said it expects drivers will be tested within 90 days — by the end of this month.

But one parent says that's unacceptable.

Dmitri Gavrilov's son was lucky enough to snag a test spot and pass his driving exam, after someone else cancelled. But the parent says he had to sit at home, refreshing a page — nearly booking an appointment 250 kilometres away — so he could get his son road-ready for school.

"It's unacceptable — so, go fix it, the previous system was better...I understand it's a tradeoff but they swung the pendulum the other way — too far," said Gavrilov.

He added that he would like to see the system return to the hands of private examiners.

"In the past my older son just did it on the spot, they found an examiner, went and he took the test. We expected that's the case today as well," said Gavrilov.

The new system was put into motion last March.

At the time, the provincial government said the private system was riddled with issues, including drivers receiving failing marks so testers could collect more fees — or passing drivers that simply weren't fit for the road.

Alberta Transportation Minister Ric McIver says the previous government "blew up the system."

"By the end of this month, somebody should be able to book an exam and get it for sure within 90 days," he said. "But in many cases even 90 days is too long."

Transportation Minister Ric McIver says the government is working on the testing backlog. (CBC)

McIver says they hope to catch up on tests this fall and get the system back on track. Last month, he told CBC News his department is working overtime to fix a system he says the previous NDP government needlessly broke.

"This has been an expensive and poorly planned, unplanned experiment that we're trying to clean up right now," he said.

In early July, driver examiner Lorraine Richards said she quit when the system was taken over by the provincial government, adding that it's not just drivers who are upset by the changes.

Richards, who has conducted more than 80,000 road tests since 1980, said in the past, driver examiners were trained for six months and worked under a senior examiner for two years.

She said that's no longer the case, due to the province's rush to boost the number of driver examiners to clear a road test backlog.

"They do have their numbers up, but of the 150, remember that over 50 per cent are totally new to the job and can only test Class 5 basics to start off with. So there's a whole lot of tests in there that aren't getting done," she said

With files from Helen Pike

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