Stuck in park: waits for driver’s licence testing reach six months

Rookie drivers have their patience tested long before their driving skills are examined.

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Rookie drivers have their patience tested long before their driving skills are examined.

Winnipeggers who want to get tested for a driver’s licence are finding that unless they are lucky enough to snag a cancelled appointment, the earliest they can get one booked through Manitoba Public Insurance is February.

Megan McLean will finally take her test on Friday after booking the appointment in April; she said it shouldn’t take months just to get a driving test.

“It’s quite frustrating,” the 30-year-old said on Thursday.

“It was also frustrating to have to spend the money because I had to go back to the driving school for a refresher. I failed my test in April, but if I had been able to take another test three weeks later, I would have been ready.”

“It’s quite frustrating.” – Megan McLean on waiting almost five months for her test

In May, driving instructors and students were upset that Winnipeggers couldn’t get an appointment until August.

In response, MPI said it would open more testing slots, hire more instructors, and ask its current instructors if they wanted to work overtime.

As well, MPI said people who had failed a test couldn’t book another one until 14 days later, while applicants who had flunked four times had to take a minimum of two hours of professional instruction before being allowed to take another text.

Harold Tabin, owner of A Confidence Driving School, said MPI’s attempt to deal with the long waits for testing hasn’t helped.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Owner of A Confidence Driving School, Harold Tabin: “It’s just really terrible.”

“It has gone from bad to worse,” Tabin said. “It hasn’t got any better.

“It’s just really terrible.”

Tabin said back in the spring, he was telling students to book their test before their first training session, but now he gives different advice.

“When they phone up, we ask if they have a test date set,” he said. “If not, we tell them it will be four to five months before you get one. We tell them to book the test and then call me back about six weeks beforehand so we can start the lessons.

“When you get a person ready for the test, they can’t afford to keep taking lessons waiting for the test.”

Tabin said he believes some of the examiners have been told “they’ve been a little too strict and to lighten it up and not be so anal” when testing drivers.

“Is it a beginner’s test or a professional test?”

“When they phone up, we ask if they have a test date set. If not, we tell them it will be four to five months before you get one. We tell them to book the test and then call me back about six weeks beforehand so we can start the lessons.” – Harold Tabin

Izabella Melendez, another student driver who’s waiting for a driving exam after failing a test a few days ago, said the earliest test she could book was in January. She got lucky: she snagged one in November after someone cancelled.

“I was driving in Brazil for 10 years,” she said, emphasizing she knows how to drive.

“I wanted to do another test as soon as possible, so it was a bummer it wasn’t until January. I kept checking the website and it is now in November, but I wish I could do another one sooner.”

Kristy Rydz, communications manager for MPI, said from now until mid-January, 10,000 exams are scheduled and they are working to add more. She said any cancelled appointments are immediately put back into the booking system.

Rydz said MPI has added 4,300 appointments by approving 2,600 in additional overtime for examiners. It is in the process of adding eight driver examiners to facilitate 2,000 more appointments per month.

Rydz said one of the biggest problems can be traced to drivers who get tested.

“The corporation continues to see pass rates of approximately 38 per cent on Class 5 road tests, which requires many of the same customers scheduling multiple appointments over time and contributes to the ongoing high demand for testing appointments.” she said.

“As such, MPI encourages drivers to schedule road tests only when they have obtained adequate professional training and driving experience.”

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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Updated on Friday, August 19, 2022 9:17 AM CDT: Fixes typo

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