Driving tests are set to resume in metropolitan Melbourne when it reaches the next stage in the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, expected to be on 1 November, depending on case numbers.
VicRoads will need to work through a massive Melbourne backlog once testing resumes to rebook about 80,000 learners who had their driving tests suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions, as well as manage the pent-up demand for learner tests. Those with suspended appointments for learner, hazard perception and driving tests will be given priority to rebook their tests and will receive a refund of their booking fees.
VicRoads estimates it will take until April next year to clear the backlog in Melbourne and will begin contacting those affected in the near future.
Licence testing has resumed in regional Victoria, where a backlog of 5000 tests should be cleared by the new year.
The government says the latest measures will enable VicRoads to deliver up to 11,000 licence tests and 16,500 computer tests for learner drivers each week in Melbourne, once all 12 new temporary testing sites, including six sites announced in June, have opened.
RACV’s senior policy adviser road safety, Elvira Lazar, has welcomed the measures to help clear the testing backlog and says the new online tests will also make access easier, particularly for people in remote and regional areas.
It is important to ensure that safeguards are in place for learner drivers to have a good basic understanding of the road rules and road safety before they get behind the wheel.
However, she says it is crucial that proper checks and balances are in place to ensure driver safety. “Obtaining a learner permit is the very first step for many, especially young people, to take ownership of safely navigating the road environment as a driver,” she says. “It is important to ensure that safeguards are in place for learner drivers to have a good basic understanding of the road rules and road safety before they get behind the wheel.”
She says the introduction of online tests for learner permits and the hazard perception test will require proper checks and balances to protect the integrity of the system. “Identity verification before and during online testing is critical to ensure learner drivers complete the test on their own, and that their identity is protected during the process,” she says.
The government says the new online tests, due to be introduced early next year, will be completed by the applicant remotely over a secure system. However, the applicant will still need to attend a VicRoads registration and licensing office in person for photo identification and an eye test.
VicRoads says it is prepared to resume testing with the strictest hygiene and safety measures in place to protect staff and applicants. “[There will be] appropriate cleaning of vehicles used in tests, comprehensive hygiene practices and the use of disposable seat covers, particularly if the customer is using their own vehicle. No one should be participating in a driving test if they are unwell.”
Under Melbourne’s current lockdown rules learners can practise driving only within a five-kilometre radius of their home and only if going out for one of the four permitted reasons – for study or permitted work, care or caregiving, to buy essentials, or for exercise and recreation. Commercial driving lessons are not permitted.
For more information visit vicroads.vic.gov.au/coronavirus.