Janelle Katterhagen, 16, of Sylvan Lake, was preparing for her driving lesson Monday. Instructors say new drivers face unreasonable waits to take their road tests. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

New drivers waiting several weeks to be tested

Ministry of Transportation hiring examiners

New drivers are waiting far too long to take their road tests, say central Alberta driving instructors.

Scotty Watters, the co-owner of Alberta Motorcycle Training, said it takes more than a month and a half to get tested.

“As of three days ago, some students told me the only availability is the end of August, and this is July,” Watters said.

Earlier this year, the NDP government eliminated privatized road testing, citing reports of poor service, high fees and lack of access in smaller centres.

The tests are still administered through private registry agencies, but government examiners test drivers.

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Watters said students used to get tested the same day they finished his company’s driver training when private contractors did the testing. The examiners worked Sundays and evenings, making it easier to book a test.

He said now, drivers are often forced to go for their test in another community, and examiners also have to travel.

“The examiner, because he’s a government employee, he can be told you are going to Edmonton to do road tests, even though you live in Red Deer. They don’t know the area.”

He said his company used to supply a motorcycle for students to take their tests, because many don’t have their own bikes. That’s no longer possible because of the wait time to be tested and how far away they may have to go for the exam.

“I’ve lost 50 per cent of my business this year, easily,” Watters said.

Carl Fakeley, owner of D2L Driver Education, said the ridiculous waits are causing people to book two road tests, so if they fail their first exam, they can try again right away.

“If you have 100 people booking road tests, they take up 200 spots, which now makes it even worse to get in,” Fakeley said.

“There’s simply nothing good about it.”

He said he knows of a Red Deer driver who took the road test in Coaldale, near Lethbridge.

An opening may have been available in Calgary or Edmonton, but the new driver didn’t feel comfortable being tested in those bigger, unfamiliar centres, he said.

Fakeley said if the government wanted more oversight, staff could have been hired to oversee private operators. A rate could also have been set if the price of testing was an issue.

A statement from the Ministry of Transportation said the previous government rushed implementation of the driver examination system, causing months of delays for road test appointments.

The program is now fully staffed with 151 driver examiners hired throughout the province. Road test bookings for all licence classes are available for July and August, and Albertans will soon be able to book a test up to 90 days in advance.

“To address the backlog and ensure that Albertans have timely access to the current road test system, we are working quickly to expand the system, assessing demand for road tests at individual registries and hiring and training driver examiners.

“We have hired additional examiners and added evening and Saturday bookings in some locations to address the backlog,” the statement said.

— With files from The Canadian Press



szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com

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