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Be prepared for your road test, advises ICBC, as demand soars

B.C.'s driver licensing offices are busy, with waits of up to 60 days for a driving test. ICBC offers tips on how to make the most of your time — and, it hopes, pass your test on the first try.
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The ICBC Driver Licensing office on Mackenzie Avenue. Nearly half of new drivers fail their first road test, which puts pressure on the system, making it harder to get a test appointment, says ICBC. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Better weather and relaxed COVID protocols have led to a crush of people wanting to take a road test for a driver’s licence, which has forced the Insurance Corporation of B.C. to beef up its testing staff and expand testing services — and warn new drivers to be better prepared for their practical exam.

According to ICBC, nearly half of new drivers fail their first road test. Combined with high demand, that has put pressure on the system, meaning it’s harder to get a test appointment.

“Every summer throughout the province, we see increased demand for road tests, so it’s really important to take advantage of your road-test opportunity,” said Peter Wong, driver licensing office manager. “By being fully prepared for your test, you set yourself up for success behind the wheel and have a much greater chance of passing.”

Last year, ICBC saw a 30 per cent jump in the number of Class 5 and Class 7 (learner) road tests compared to 2019. This year, ICBC reports there have been 100,000 more driver’s licence applications.

So far this year, ICBC has conducted more than 18,000 road tests on Vancouver Island.

There doesn’t seem to be any one answer for the increase in demand, though it’s clear some is due to the fact road tests were cancelled for several months in 2020 because of the pandemic.

To deal with the backlog, ICBC increased the number of driver examiners throughout the province, with many working overtime to provide as many road tests as possible.

The corporation added 65 driver examiners last year and will add another 20 over the next two years to bring its complement of qualified examiners to 250. It also expanded examination services to six new locations.

According to ICBC, 56 per cent of drivers seeking a Class 5 or Class 7 licence waited less than 60 days for an appointment.

The same high demand has been seen at some driving schools.

Kate Harris, owner of Drivewise in Victoria, said they have tripled their business over the last two years and now have 31 cars on the road. “It’s definitely busy for sure,” she said.

Harris said she’s not sure why there’s been a jump in demand, but believes it could just be demographics, as she said most of the COVID-related demand has been dealt with.

She said in many ways, the pandemic boosted her business by forcing it to find new ways to deliver services.

The 47 year-old company — previously Young Drivers of Canada — specializes in training drivers age 16 to 18 and has added online components to its curriculum as well as niche classes like scooter training, re-training for older drivers, fleet programs and lessons in things like backing up.

“There’s just so many more opportunities for us,” she said. “We’ve increased our opportunities and customer service to get more people.”

But not all schools have had the same experience.

Andre Moazami, owner and operator of My Chosen Driving School, said things are slow right now for his operation and others in the region, which he suspects is because people are using the summer to visit family and travel rather than stay home and take courses “that they can do anytime.”

He said he is also wary of what to expect in the fall, if there is another wave of COVID cases.

ICBC’s tips for a successful road test

1. Be ready. Drive as often as you can. Take lessons to refine your skills.

2. Examine your vehicle. Bring a safe, reliable vehicle for your road test.

3. Calm yourself. Do some last-minute practice on more challenging maneuvers like parallel and reverse-stall parking.

4. Heighten awareness. Observe your surroundings and be aware of posted speed limits. A lack of awareness while on the road has led to many road-test disqualifications.

5. Ask questions. If you are unsure about test requirements, make sure to ask your examiner before the test begins.

aduffy@timescolonist.com