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Lengthy Wait Times Continue For Driver Licence Testing

The number of days New Zealanders are waiting to sit a practical driver licence test continues to grow, with the latest figures from the Driving Change Network showing waits of up to 104 working days.

“Test wait times are worse in Gore, Gisborne and Morrinsville centers” says Driving Change Network Coordinator Wendy Robertson. “Our latest figures show the average wait time nationwide is around 50 days.”

The Driving Change Network is a diverse group of more than 200 stakeholders working in the driver education, training and licensing space. The group was told by Waka Kotahi that their goal is to have services back to ‘pre-Covid levels’ as soon as possible. But Ms Robertson says testing services were under strain long before the 2020 lockdown.

“Pre-lockdown people throughout New Zealand were still waiting between four to eight weeks to secure a driving test slot, which is far too long.”

Ms Robertson says there are several factors contributing to the increase in wait times, including the 2020 lockdown which saw tests cancelled, delayed, and the emergence of cautious booking practices such as not allowing language interpreters or support people.

“However the main issue is the government’s user pays system, which doesn’t have the capability to match demand for testing services. The government needs to move towards a centrally funded model where driver education, training and licensing is equitable and accessible to everyone in the community who wants to learn to drive.

“We need more driving testers available at each site, and an increase in testing hours. We also need more focus on driver education and training so learner drivers are better prepared for their practical test.

Ms Robertson says some areas of the country see their calendar booked out as soon as new test booking time slots open.

“These wait times create a huge amount of anxiety for people,” says Ms Robertson. “They know if they fail their test it could take months to re-sit it, and these test failures create additional demand on a system which is already overburdened.

“Test delays impact our community providers too, as they need to find additional resource to provide ongoing lessons while their students wait to sit their practical test.

“It’s in the public interest to have as many Kiwi’s fully licensed and driving safely to school, work and community events. This issue is just one of many within New Zealand’s driving licence system, which isn’t equitable or accessible to many New Zealanders.”

The first annual Driving Change Network conference is this week over 20 and 21 May in Wellington, where members will gather to discuss solutions to achieving a more equitable and accessible driver training and licensing system.

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