Young drivers discouraged as Ontario hits brakes on road tests

For many young people, getting their driver's licence is a rite of passage — but nearly 40,000 road tests have been cancelled in Ontario since December, and it's not clear when they'll resume.

Some 39,000 'in-vehicle' tests cancelled since late December

Since Ontario was placed under a lockdown in December, some 39,000 road tests have been cancelled — and the wait for a new one could be as long as two years. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

For many, it's a rite of passage: getting your driver's licence the minute you turn 16.

But for Ontario drivers looking to make it to the next step in the province's tiered licensing system, the current COVID-19 lockdown could mean they'll face quite a wait.

Since the lockdown went into effect in late December, approximately 39,000 road tests in the province have been cancelled.

What's more, the emergency orders introduced by the Ontario government on Jan. 12 mean that "all in-vehicle passenger road tests will be cancelled across the province until further notice," according to a statement from the ministry.

In eastern Ontario, about 9,000 drivers have received cancellation notices — including Ottawa teen Karina Gruson.

"I was kind of discouraged," said the 17-year-old, who'd been booked for a road test to get her G2 licence on Dec. 30 before receiving an email informing her it wouldn't take place.

Karina Gruson had a G2 road test booked on Dec. 30, 2020, but because of the lockdown measures it was one of approximately 9,000 tests cancelled in eastern Ontario. (Submitted by Karina Gruson)

Under Ontario's graduated licensing system, Gruson needs to pass a road test to move from a G1 to a G2 licence. 

A G1 is typically held for a year — although that period can be shortened — and comes with restrictions like needing a fully-licensed driver in the passenger seat and not driving on 400-series highways. 

In order to graduate to a less-stringent G2, drivers must pass a road test — and then another one, after a year, to get their full licence.

No available tests for years

Both Gruson and her friend, Violet De Caria, got their G1s shortly after turning 16.

"I do a lot of sports and I was going to get a job, so I wanted to be able to, like, drive to those things to make it easier for my parents," Gruson said. 

De Caria turned 16 in July, and said she and a friend got up at 6 a.m. for their written G1 test in order to beat the long lines that formed at Service Ontario locations earlier in the pandemic. 

"[It] wasn't really worth it, because I'm not going to get [a G2] for a while," she said. "So I could have slept in." 

When she tried to book her G2 test recently, De Caria said she couldn't find an available spot for the next two years. 

"Which was crazy, like, absolutely crazy to me," she said. 

Since the lockdown, De Caria said booking a test isn't even an option with the website saying it isn't taking bookings "until further notice." 

"It just makes me really upset. I was super excited to start driving," she said, adding her parents had hoped she'd be able help out by eventually driving her brother to soccer practice. 

Violet De Caria will become eligible for her G2 in March but says she can't find an available appointment for the next two years. (Submitted by Violet De Caria)

More examiners could be hired

A Ministry of Transportation spokesperson said the ministry was working through the backlog and  — when road tests resume — would work with its service provider to hire more examiners to increase the number of tests. 

The ministry said road tests for commercial drivers will continue during the lockdown, and all DriveTest locations remain open for services like knowledge tests, with full COVID-19 precautions in place. 

As for Gruson, she was able to rebook her road test for March 2 after someone else cancelled, and she's hoping she'll be able to complete her test on that date.

"I'm pretty excited, because I've been practising for a long time now," she said.

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