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L-platers in long road trips to sit driver test

L-plate drivers are being forced to travel hundreds of kilometres or wait up to six months to do their practical driving test.

The lack of more suitable test times and locations has been blamed on an increase in the number of young drivers failing their tests and having to repeat them, drivers failing to attend their tests and few staff.

It has forced the Department of Transport to employ more assessors and to trial extended operating hours at a metropolitan licensing centre.

Murdoch mother Angelique Lee was forced to take her 17-year-old son Jacques to Bridgetown this week for his driving test.

But after the 250km trip, Mr Lee failed his test and now has to wait three months for another available spot.

“I don’t think the system is working particularly well,” Ms Lee said. “Spots can become available at any time and unless you are monitoring the website every minute of every day, it is difficult to find a suitable time or location.

“There is also no waiting list. In the end, we had to choose between Bridgetown or waiting many months.”

Two other parents contacted by The Weekend West said they had faced a similar dilemma and had chosen to book a test at Waroona, 120km south of Perth, instead of waiting until April.

The department’s acting general manager of driver and vehicle services, Steve Mitchinson, said assessments could be booked up to six months in advance but their availability was constantly changing as candidates cancelled and rebooked.

He said that with about 130,000 learner drivers in WA, “booking availability can be quite fluid”.

“The department is aware of current wait times,” Mr Mitchinson said. He said the wait times were being addressed by:

Recruiting more assessors. Six new assessors are expected to be employed by February.

Testing the extension of operating hours at the Kelmscott licensing centre.

Testing the use of SMS reminders to combat “no-shows”.

Changing session times to increase the number of assessments conducted.

“But these alone will not address the booking pressures, which is fundamentally caused by a growing failure rate due to lack of preparation by novice drivers and supervisors,” Mr Mitchinson said.

“Evidence shows that despite no changes to the test criteria, we continue to see a decline in the pass rate, which this year has added an additional 7500 tests to our program.”

Another 4000 tests were cancelled because candidates failed to arrive or arrived in an unsafe or unregistered vehicle.

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