THE freedom of having a licence is something most people take for granted, but many are now being forced to endure extended testing wait times due to coronavirus.
A shift to an online learner’s permit test could help clear the backlog, with the test usually completed in a VicRoads office.
Lowan MP, Emma Kealy said the State Government was “actively investigating” the online alternative.
“In response to repeated calls from The Nationals to move the learner driver test online, senior transport staff have confirmed that the issue is under consideration,” Ms Kealy said.
“We are all very aware of the need to take measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, however, this is already a computer-based test which could be done safely online.
“Getting your Ls is a rite of passage for young people in country Victoria.
“Unlike in Melbourne where there are endless options to get you from A to B, a driver’s licence is crucial for young people in our part of the world where public transport is virtually non-existent.”
With pressures building and the need to travel long distances at times for shopping and work, the benefit of allowing learner permit and probationary licence testing to continue would ease the burden.
“It helps take the pressure off regional families who have to travel long distances each day to attend school, medical appointments or to do the shopping and play sports,” Ms Kealy said.
“In a time when our youth are being asked to cope with online learning, not interacting with their friends and not being able to play sport we need to keep some normality for them - sitting for their learners’ permit should be an easy part of life we can offer them.”
One family that has had mixed success recently is Macarthur’s Oliver and Hamish Wortley.
Oliver recently turned 16 and will have to wait until testing resumes after his application for exemption due to hardship was denied.
Hamish turns 18 today and will sit his probationary driving test next week in Warrnambool after his exemption was approved.
Oliver said it was disappointing he would have to wait but understood the driving tests would be more important.
“I had a look at it, we tried to get an exemption, but it wasn’t approved,” he said.
“Hamish put in his exemption and got it, so he has already done his hazard perception test.
“It makes more sense for him to have it, because he is getting his full licence, but it is still a bit annoying I can’t sit my test.”
Once Oliver gets his learner’s permit, he will be able to help more on the farm.
“It would be good to get it as soon as possible, it means I can drive tractors on the road,” he said.
“I can also go down the road and help with stock and things like that.”
The 16-year-old has backed the online alternative and said it would benefit a lot of people, particularly in regional Victoria.
“I think it would be good to log in remotely, but I guess it brings about other problems like cheating,” he said.
“It wouldn’t be a bad idea though, just to let people like myself in do it online.”
Hamish completed his hazard perception test last week in Hamilton, with testing appointments significantly reduced due to COVID-19.
Data provided to The Spectator showed 85 drive tests were completed in Hamilton this year, while 424 computer-based tests had also been ticked off, with 197 of those being a learner’s permit test.
Hamish said he was grateful to be granted the exemption and excited to sit the second and final part of the probationary test.
“On the VicRoads website I had to fill out a hardship exemption and my reason was for work purposes, so I filled that in and it came back successful,” he said.
“Earlier in the month I applied then I did my hazard perception last week in Hamilton.
“They are not doing any drive tests in Hamilton now, so I will be doing it at Warrnambool.”
Ms Kealy said even before COVID-19, there were massive waiting lists for permits.
“Suspension of the computer-based learner tests has worsened the wait times and the government needs to rectify this issue,” Ms Kealy said.
“During the few weeks driving tests were permitted to resume, VicRoads had an estimated 100,000 tests to reschedule before reopening for new bookings.
“The government must commit now to moving the learner driver test online to ensure that young people in western Victoria are not further disadvantaged.”
A VicRoads spokesperson said VicRoads would be working hard to clear the backlog of bookings once restrictions eased.
“All customers from western Victoria who had a booking postponed on March 25 due to coronavirus at a testing centre in the area have now been contacted by our staff,” the spokesperson said.
“Once it is deemed safe to resume testing by the chief health officer, we anticipate it will take approximately four weeks to complete the tests for those customers who have re-booked an appointment.
“New bookings will become available following the completion of all re-bookings.”