Drivers face long wait times for practical tests at VTNZ Masterton. PHOTO/TOM TAYLOR
Long delays for keen drivers
Burgeoning Wairarapa drivers hoping to gain driver licences this summer face minimum wait times of two months for their practical tests, with delays affecting young people applying for jobs.
As of Monday morning, the next available full driver licence test at VTNZ Masterton was March 9 – a wait time of 57 days.
Alternative centres in Lower Hutt and Porirua both had minimum wait times of 43 days.
Wellington had a minimum wait of 50 days.
The wait time for Wairarapa learners hoping to obtain their restricted licences was even greater, at 64 days.
The next available restricted test at VTNZ Masterton was March 16.
The normal wait time to book and sit a test was 30 days, a New Zealand Transport Agency spokesperson said.
In 2014, in a bid to encourage people to progress through the system more quickly, new learner and restricted driver licences were to expire five years after their date of issue.
However, awareness of the new rule was limited, and in November 2019, the government agreed to a two-year extension for current five-year learner or restricted licence-holders.
The Ministry of Transport also stated that it would review New Zealand’s Graduated Driver Licensing System to look at why many learner drivers were not progressing to their full licence.
The NZTA spokesperson said that the covid-19 lockdowns had prevented VTNZ from conducting tests, as social distancing was impossible within vehicles.
“This has resulted in a backlog of about 42,000 practical tests nationwide not being able to take place, creating a high demand for tests from those unable to take their tests during lockdowns and other aspiring drivers looking to book tests.”
Wairarapa Road Safety Council manager Bruce Pauling said that while many things had been affected by covid-19, the delays in testing had a serious impact on young people.
“Some of them need the licences for jobs … more than 70 per cent of jobs require a driver licence of some sort.”
Pauling said that although his Community Driver Mentor Programme had helped many high school students to gain the skills to complete their licences, the testing delays meant that some learner drivers had still missed out on jobs.
“If there are long delays, there can be frustration. Some people actually leave it, decide it’s taking too long … and don’t get their licence.”
Pauling said that young people could be tempted to drive around illegally if testing was taking too long, and they were then at risk of gaining police attention.
“Once they enter the justice cycle, that’s sometimes hard to get out of.”
The NZTA spokesperson said the average number of tests completed each month nationwide had increased from around 25,000 to 27,000 since July. However, summer was the typical peak season for driver testing and this would impact wait times.
NZTA was working with VTNZ to increase the availability of testing by training new testing officers.
VTNZ Masterton would not reveal how many testing officers it had available.
- If you are a young person affected by long wait times for practical driver licence tests, the Times-Age would like to hear from you. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.