Steering a licence solution

Tuesday 22 September 2020

YOUNG people are being denied the opportunity to obtain a driver’s licence during COVID-19 restrictions.

Before the pandemic, Victorians learned to drive through stages — P1, P2 and then via the Graduate Licensing System, including 120 hours of logged supervised practice under different road and environmental conditions, followed by two computer-based tests and an on-road driving test.

Premier Daniel Andrews has admitted Victoria is facing “significant issues” because of testing backlogs and young people not having enough driving hours. Importantly, he added “testing needs to be different”. But how?

We need a way that doesn’t undermine the GLS system, reduces the risk of unlicensed and incompetent drivers and, importantly, prepares our young people for safe driving success.

The Fit to Drive Foundation, of which I am an advisory board member, is a not-for-profit education program targeted at year 11s. In light of COVID restrictions, it has created two new online interactive road safety programs — Steer Right and CARPOOL, reaching 5000 young Victorians in four months. We are not the only online safe driving program but parents need to know about them. These can help prepare young people once restrictions are eased.

Under stage three/four restrictions, all face-to-face licence testing (on road and computer) was suspended, leaving a waiting list of three months or more for tens of thousands of young people.

We know the GLS works. In 2007, 42.5 per cent fewer drivers aged 18-23 were involved in fatal or serious injury crashes since the GLS was introduced. For drivers aged 18-20, there has been a 20.3 per cent reduction in fatal and serious injury crashes, and a 13.6 per cent reduction for all injury crashes.

So how do we clear the backlog and maintain these great stats? Such a solution could be to allow computer-based testing to be offered in secondary schools and public libraries, rather than at VicRoads offices only.

This would reduce the backlog of learner and probationer licensing within weeks and free VicRoads staff to conduct on-road testing. VicRoads would still manage proof of identity by a representative, issuing and managing documents after successful completion.

The most important consideration is for our kids to be safe in their formative driving years, without stress, and with streamlined processes to assess their competence.

DR RAY SHUEY (APM) IS A FORMER VICTORIA POLICE ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER FOR TRAFFIC AND OPERATIONS

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