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Parallel parking temporarily removed from G-class licence to clear backlog

Thousands of people in Ontario who are facing their final driver's licence road test may no longer have to prove they can execute a three-point turn, a roadside emergency stop or even the dreaded parallel parking manoeuvre. 

COVID-19 shutdowns meant more than 420,000 driving tests have been cancelled

Waseem Qazi has been teaching new drivers for more than 20 years. While he understands the need to shorten the final road test in Ontario, he said it will mean new drivers aren't tested for key skills, including three-point turns. (Submitted by Waseem Qazi)

Thousands of people in Ontario who are facing their final driver's licence road test may no longer have to prove they can execute a three-point turn, a roadside emergency stop or even the dreaded parallel parking manoeuvre.

It's all part of the province's plan to shorten the test to help clear a massive backlog built up during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Ontario Transportation Ministry said the changes will remove "duplicative elements" in the G-class test that were already part of the earlier G2 test in the province's graduating licensing program.

Road-side stops, three-point turns and parallel parking, which were previously included in the G-test at the examiner's discretion, will for now not be part of the G-test as the province moves to speed up the exam process. 

The province says the changes are temporary measures, in place until at least March 31, to deal with the province-wide testing backlog.

Drivers can wait a year for a test

More than 420,000 tests have been cancelled due to various lockdowns and safety measures since the start of the pandemic. Driving instructors who spoke to CBC News said the backlog has some people waiting more than a year to take their final driving test, though some manage to get appointments within weeks through the DriveTest booking system.

The delays create problems for people needing to drive to work or for families keen to let older teens start driving themselves around.

The province says the changes will speed up testing "while continuing to elevate drivers' skills," but some Ontario driving instructors aren't convinced it's the right move. 

Sam Chong trains new driving instructors through a program at Humber College in Toronto. He also heads the Association of Professional Driving Instructors of Ontario, an industry group with over 300 members.

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Chong has been frustrated by a lack of clarity from the province about the changes, which he said appear to have been happening informally for the past few weeks. but with no official word from the province.

He said driving instructors have had recent applicant tests come back with three elements on the score sheet —  three-point turns, parallel parking and emergency roadside stops — scratched out by testers. 

"Honestly, I'll tell you it's been horrible with communication in the last number of months," said Chong. "There's no confirmation or consultation of any sort from the ministry with our industry at all." 

Chong estimated the changes could shave 15 minutes off a typical 30-minute testing time, but said overall evaluation of drivers will suffer. 

"If these changes become permanent, then I don't think it's a good choice for the province, because there's no other way applicants can prove they can perform these manoeuvres safely."

Waseem Qazi is a private driving instructor with 20 years of experience and the owner of Driverzed.com in London, Ont.

He's OK with the changes if they're temporary, saying they effectively shift to focus on everyday driving rather than slow-speed manoeuvres. Still, he said, instructors should make a point of teaching new drivers these skills even if they're no longer part of the test.

"Most people don't back into their driveway because they're not confident, and they haven't been taught how to do it, but it's the safer way," said Qazi. "Parking skills are also crucial."

In addition to the changes to testing, the province said it will hire 251 temporary examiners at DriveTest centres, and offer road tests on weekends and evenings to cut the wait time. 

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that the presence of certain manoeuvres on the G-class driver's test -- parallel parking, three-point turns and roadside stops -- would now be at the discretion of the examiner. In fact those manoeuvres will be temporarily removed from the G-class test to speed up the testing process.
    Jan 12, 2022 1:58 PM ET

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