Windsor

Bumpy road ahead if you want a driver's licence after Ontario hits brakes on in-vehicle testing

Ontario has cancelled all in-vehicle passenger tests since April 3, but it wasn't the start of the long road to getting a driver's licence. Close to 3,600 passenger road tests have been dropped at the Windsor DriveTest Centre alone since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Province has cancelled nearly 300,000 road tests since the COVID-19 pandemic started over year ago

The province has cancelled all in-vehicle passenger tests since April 3, with close to 3,600 passenger road tests cancelled at the Windsor DriveTest Centre alone since the beginning of the pandemic due to COVID-19 restrictions. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

Ben Wylie can breathe a temporary sigh of relief, but tens of thousands of other Ontarians trying to get their driver's licences aren't so lucky.

The 17-year-old managed to get his G2 driver's licence on April 1, just two days before the Ontario government's shutdown measures cancelled in-vehicle passenger tests — or non-commercial road tests. 

"Both my parents work full time, so it's always a challenge to get to work and get to school and wherever you need to be without your licence."

Wylie's licence didn't come without its share of troubles: "Basically it took almost like nine to 10 months longer than it should have. It was very late." 

Wylie's G2 road test was cancelled twice in the past year because of various lockdown restrictions and reopenings. 

He was able to squeak by this year, but some of his friends aren't so lucky.

"Everybody's in the same boat, so at least you have some people around you kind of going through it with you, but that doesn't really help."

He adds, "Everybody wants their licence, all my friends want their licence, I wanted mine. It's not a great feeling. It's good to finally get it, but I still feel bad for some of my friends who still can't get their licence."

Ben Wylie, 17, managed to get his G2 licence right before the Ontario government's shutdown restrictions cancelled passenger road tests on April 3, but the process took almost 10 months amid constant lockdowns and reopenings. (CBC News)

Driving schools also face roadblock 

According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO), close to 3,600 passenger road tests have been cancelled at the Windsor DriveTest Centre alone since the beginning of the pandemic, due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

"We had 141 students booked for the road test for the months of April and May ... at least 68 of those were cancelled..If you booked in April, it got cancelled." 

Jacob Hammoud is the owner and an instructor at idrive Driving School Windsor. Students can prepare for their G1 written tests, but don't know when they can resume driving lessons with instructors. 

Jacob Hammoud, owner and an instructor at idrive Driving School Windsor, says almost half the students booked for road tests during April and May have had them cancelled in the new round of COVID-19 restrictions. (CBC News)

Enrolment at Hammoud's school has down by about 40 per cent in the last year, he says, noting many driving schools are struggling to retain students. 

"Once the lockdown is lifted, we would have to rebook tests, and in many cases that's a six-month wait time."  

Those are the lucky ones. Some who've had their road tests cancelled say they face wait times of over a year.

Frustration building 

The frustration over not being able to get a driver's licence is also being felt beyond Windsor-Essex. 

Since the start of the pandemic, the MTO notes, "there have been approximately 294,400 passenger road tests cancelled due to closures and Grey lockdown restrictions."

In Windsor, a petition has been started in hopes of getting the province to keep DriveTest centres open for all road tests, especially given the long wait times to rebook. 

The petition, which has garnered over 2,000 signatures by mid-Friday, is calling on the province to re-evaluate restrictions and find ways to safely conduct road tests involving an examiner and person taking the test. 

Until restrictions are lifted, the MTO says it plans to hire additional driver examiners to increase the availability of testing once students are able to hit the roads once again. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mrinali has worked in newsrooms in Toronto, Windsor and Fredericton. She has written and produced stories for CBC's The National, CBC Radio's Cross Country Checkup, CBC News Network and CBC Entertainment News.

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