Delays pile up for Valley driving tests
IAN FAIRCLOUGH SALTWIRE email@example.com @iancfairclough
New drivers in the Annapolis Valley are waiting up to four months to be tested to receive their licence because of a combination of staffing shortages, increasing numbers of people needing testing, and drivers from Halifax booking tests in the Valley to have easier driving conditions to be tested under. That’s according to a driver instructor from the Valley, who is seeing more people waiting longer, even after the backlog caused by COVID-19 was dealt with. One driver examiner who traveled from the Valley to the Yarmouth area one to two days a week to do testing there went off work, which meant that work had to be covered by someone else, causing a domino effect of travel for testers and reducing available time in the Valley. Another examiner quit, further compounding the problem, said the instructor, who didn’t want to be named. That examiner has since returned, but it comes at a time when immigration numbers in the Annapolis Valley and rest of the province have soared, without a corresponding increase in testers. A former examiner said Thursday, Sept. 7, that there were 30 driving instructors in the province two decades ago, but that number had dropped to 18 recently. “Immigration and staffshortages are the two biggies,” the instructor said. Years ago, they had one person in Kentville four days a week, but “things have gone wacky.” He booked a student for his driving test Sept. 6, but it won’t happen until December because of all this. He said it’s a bit better now because some sites have started booking Saturday appointments, but there is still a long way to go. It’s meant examiners come from Halifax a couple days a week to try to alleviate the pressure. The number of people either moving to the province or reaching the age of 16 and ready to be tested is outpacing the capacity of the number of examiners in the system, which is not increasing to match the demand. “Typically, it would be a four- to six-week wait, but now it’s a longer wait because of the backlog,” he said. For people who don’t sign up for driver training right away, it could mean they don’t get a test date until their oneyear learners’ permit expires, meaning they need to get another, the instructor said. He said that because traffic and street conditions in Halifax make the test there more difficult, many drivers pay to have a school drive them to Windsor, Kentville or Middleton to be tested, putting even more strain on the system. Nothing prevents or bans that, but it overloads the system and probably doesn’t help the students in the long run, the instructor said. “It’s allowed, but it is what it is,” he said. As of press time for this story, the province did not respond to questions about the number of current and unfilled examiner positions in the province, if there are plans to add more to deal with the increasing number of drivers, and whether there should be restrictions on people getting tested outside of their home area.