RACV Drive School reopens with new hygiene measures

Car parked with L plates on side of street.

Sue Hewitt

Posted November 02, 2020

Learner drivers can get back behind the wheel as RACV Drive School turns on the ignition.

More than seven months after suspending lessons due to COVID-19 restrictions, RACV Drive School’s Melbourne operations are welcoming back learner drivers. 

Manager Lydia Kendray says as the Drive School reopens for bookings, it is implementing COVID-safe measures that meet, and in some instances, exceed government requirements to protect staff, instructors and learner drivers. These measures have been tested at RACV Drive School operations in Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong and Gippsland, which reopened on 5 October following resumption of licence testing in regional Victoria. 

As well as mandatory masks for instructors and students, in line with government requirements, RACV’s Drive School COVIDSafe Plan also includes a range of sanitisation and contact tracing procedures. 

Lydia says the safety measures start from the time of booking a lesson, when students who present as unwell are asked to postpone their lesson to a later date. Between each lesson instructors disinfect all hard services and there is an emphasis on thorough hand hygiene as well as ensuring fresh air circulation during lessons through car ventilation systems or open windows. 

“Students can feel assured that we are doing everything necessary to ensure that their safety is priority at all times,” she says.  

The RACV Drive School reopening comes as VicRoads works through a backlog of around 80,000 driving tests in metropolitan Melbourne which were postponed when licence testing was suspended from 25 March to 15 June and again on 8 July. The two shut downs have also created long waiting lists for those wanting to sit their learner and hazard perception tests. 

VicRoads says it will prioritise those whose tests were suspended during the lockdowns and refund booking fees for those affected.

Meanwhile the state government has announced plans to “turbo-charge” licence  testing to help clear the backlog, by hiring hundreds of additional testing offers and opening 12 temporary testing sites around Melbourne. The government expects the additional resources with enable VicRoads to deliver up to 11,000 licence tests and 16,500 online learner permit tests each week in Melbourne.

From early next year learner driver and hazard perception tests will be offered online, with applicants completing the tests remotely over a secure system.

RACV’s Lydia Kendray says learner drivers waiting to sit their tests should take the opportunity to brush up on their skills and make sure they are fully prepared. Many learners may not have had the opportunity to keep up their driving practice during lockdown, especially after early confusion over whether parents were allowed to take their children for driving lessons.

She suggests learner drivers contact their driving instructor for a skills-gap assessment to measure their competency in all areas of driving before sitting their test. “This will identify any deficiencies in their ability, not only to pass the test, but also to drive safely in their P-plate years,” she says. 

Now that learners can return to the roads, Lydia recommends getting in as much practice as possible. “If you practise then the behaviour becomes automatic so the normal nerves aren’t as much of an issue,” she says. 

RACV senior policy adviser on safety, Elvira Lazar, says it is important for learners to get experience in a variety of conditions including at night, regional and built-up areas, in the rain and a range of traffic conditions. “Experience and lots of practice is the best way to reduce the risks all drivers face on the road,” she says.  

Lydia explains that RACV Drive School, which is celebrating its 60th year in 2020,  teaches a six-stage driving program that goes beyond VicRoads’ four-stage process, to help learners to not just pass their test, but also focus on developing as safer and more confident, effective drivers.   

Lydia says driving lessons are not just for young people wanting to get on the road for the first time. The oldest RACV student in recent years was 82 and she passed her test on the first attempt. “There are a range of fantastic stories across our Drive School. We take great pride in helping all people in the community to get on the road.

RACV also offers a Safe Driving program to teach licensed drivers techniques and attitudes to help them drive safely.