B.C. driving tests are arguably the most difficult to pass in North America.
Few jurisdictions require two driving road tests before a full licence is issued. Candidates seeking a regular class 5 driver's licence in B.C. must show driving proficiency throughout a 45-minute period. The examiner spends the first few minutes explaining test requirements and reviewing the vehicle's roadworthiness. Once the vehicle functions are determined to be in good working order, the road test begins.
At the end of the test, the examiner spends a few minutes explaining the results of the drive and answering questions. The road test may include as many as nine skill-related manoeuvres, of which at least seven must be demonstrated. A second road test, involving at least three skill-related actions, may be attempted after the new driver has held the "N" licence for two years, or 18 months if a Graduated Licensing Pro-gram course has been successfully completed. Each of the road tests involves a minimum of 35 to 40 minutes of actual driving.
Other jurisdictions aren't so strict, I learned at the recent Driving Schools Association of the Americas Convention in Savannah, Georgia.
The Ohio driving test is a 10-minute practical driving demonstration. It does not include parallel parking or any confined-space driving. The drive is conducted in commercial and residential areas. When I was informed of this short version of a road test, it puzzled me. Ohio was a leader in highway safety in the 1970s and ''80s. I was told by driving-school owners that state financial constraints had caused this less-than-desirable driver testing situation. I have no idea how one could possibly do an adequate job of testing in such a short time. The Ohio authority maintains that driving manoeuvrability is the key factor in driver testing, not parking.
The driving test in New Jersey is 20 minutes. It includes such confined-space manoeuvres as the three-point turn, parallel parking and normal city driving tasks. A U-turn is legal in New Jersey unless there is a sign posted indicating otherwise. It is also included on the road test.
California has instituted an online theory test option, which can be completed at home. They had conducted an online learner's licence pilot project several years ago and found the theory test to be inconsequential to the final in-car practical driving test result. When I asked driving-school owners from California how the licensing authority could guarantee that the person registering to take the test was the one doing the driver's test, they said that passwords are needed to access the program, adding security didn't really matter since the test was a revenue producer and relatively inconsequential anyway.
The California road test is about a half hour and includes freeway merging and some parking skills.
We were also shown a video of the Indian road test in Mumbai. It was less than five minutes from introduction to conclusion, and consisted of forward circular driving on a parking lot. It was also noted that Mumbai has the strictest testing procedures in all of India.
The B.C. government should be congratulated for maintaining a high standard of driver testing.
If drivers from out of country, with lower standards, wish to attain a B.C. driver's licence, they should prepare for a rigorous testing process.
Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and in the Central Interior of B.C. He is a registered B.C. teacher and the former vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas.
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