Steve Wallace: Long-awaited road tests return to B.C.

Practical driving testing for new drivers is now a reality in B.C., as of July 20. The dynamic duo of provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix have set the criteria for the phased expansion of services in our province, provided adequate protective measures are in effect. Attorney General David Eby, who is responsible for ICBC, has laid out the relative chronological opening of road tests previously cancelled since March 17 of this calendar year. None of these provincial officials could have anticipated the various disruptions produced by this present pandemic. This is new territory for all of us.

Dr. Henry has had experience with outbreaks of this kind (SARS and Ebola) in her previous medical positions. The magnitude of this present situation dwarfs any past experiences. Her sense of duty is obvious by her controlled demeanor and from-the-heart responses in on-air appearances. Imagine having to appear in stressful circumstances every single day for months on end.

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Enter Adrian Dix. Dedicated Dix! Dutiful Dix! Call him what you want, he makes us all proud to be British Columbians. Day after day, at the live media sessions, he has performed to perfection. His directions are simple and understandable. He never, in his wildest dreams, could have imagined life without a day off for months on end. But there he is, ever-present, ever steady, ever ready.

Enter David Eby. Equitable Eby! Excellent Eby! The previous days as B.C. Civil Liberties CEO will most certainly guide him in his present political position. He immediately responded to concerns about how the above-mentioned road test resumption would occur.

His attention to fairness has all road tests, which were cancelled, resuming in chronological order. The first two weeks of this resumption will accommodate the earliest road-test cancellations, which happened in the last two weeks of March. From that reference point in time, there is supposed to be booking of test times through the upcoming months with chronology as a guiding principle.

The process will take some by surprise. What does one do with a situation where the student seeking an appointment for a previously cancelled road test is due to leave for university before the chronologically determined test date? Will there be exceptions for those whose future employment is dependent upon getting or getting rid of the N, affixed to the back of the vehicle?

There is another big problem of credibility and fairness this government must address.

Many student drivers have purchased the Graduated Driving Course. As mentioned in a previous column, this course consists of 12 hours of professional instruction, 40 hours of documented behind-the-wheel co-pilot accompaniment and at least 18 hours of driving theory attendance. This gives the student a six- month reduction from the two-year N phase, provided there is not a blamable crash or traffic tickets involving penalty points.

Even if a student can do the road test immediately upon the restart, there would be a loss of a four- month time period of advantage from the initial awarding of the learner’s licence.

In the interest of fairness, this is what should happen.

There should be a one-time exception made to shorten the N phase for the above-mentioned GLC students who have seen their six-month advantage significantly reduced or in some cases eliminated altogether. No one is more aware of this inequity than people in management or at the ICBC testing sites.

At present, additional examiners are being trained and there is a very forthright attempt by ICBC to reduce the backlog of those wanting a road test appointment. Because of additional safety measures being taken, seven tests a day will be conducted by examiners as opposed to the nine a day in the past.

Hope this mitigation is successful! The number of tests to be re-booked in the coming months is daunting.

Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island. He is a former vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a University of Manitoba graduate.

stevedwallace@shaw.ca

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