Driving school

Hamilton Mountain Learner Drivers Turn to Mom and Dad Driving School

Alicia Warrener hoped to have completed all or most of her teaching by car before returning to Laurentian University after the holidays.
  • Frank De Clara, director of the Academy of Driving Unipol's office on Upper James and president of the Driver Instructors' Golden Horseshoe Association, estimates that provincial regulations have prevented up to 2,000 students from learning to drive at school driving

Alicia Warrener hoped to have completed all or most of her teaching by car before returning to Laurentian University after the holidays.

But the 21-year-old student driver from Unipol Driving Academy in Upper James found herself locked out of the driving school vehicle after the province announced that classroom and in-car learning in Ontario driving schools would be suspended between Jan. 5 and Jan. 26 under the amended Step Two COVID-19 plan.

Online courses are allowed.

“It definitely shook things up,” said the Stoney Creek resident, who earned her G1 learner’s permit in 2018.

Warrener said she now plans to do the roadwork after classes end in April and book a driving test sometime after.

“Mai is our only choice right now,” said Warrener, who noted that she’s been out and about with her dad several times in the family vehicle. “It’s a long wait.”

Frank De Clara is Director of the Unipol Driving Academy Office and President of the Golden Horseshoe Association of Driving Instructors.

He estimates that there are up to 2,000 students at driving schools in southern Ontario, like Warrener, who are affected by the new regulations.

Still, De Clara noted, the province is continuing with driver’s license road tests.

“We wonder, who trains the students besides the parents to take the driving test?” he said.

De Clara said that due to the backlog of people waiting for a driving test, some people may go ahead and book appointments without full driving school training, noting that some students have been able to book a test in three or four weeks due to cancellations.

“The kids will try their luck,” De Clara said. “They may not be fully ready for the test drive, but they will take the opportunity to do so for fear of not (getting a test date) for several months due to the backlog.”

He said the driving school industry recommends 10 hours of in-car instruction at a driving school and 20 hours of in-car practice at home with parents before a learner driver attempts their road test.

De Clara said using a driving school is not mandatory to pass a driving test, but there is no insurance reduction for those who do not go this route.

Lee Alderson, senior issues adviser to the Department of Transport, said about 421,872 test drives have been canceled in the province since March 2020.

“Ontario has opened nine temporary test drive centers in Burlington, East Gwillimbury, Guelph, Niagara, Mississauga, Mount Joy (Markham), Ottawa, Oshawa and Sarnia to eliminate the backlog of passenger test drives resulting from restrictions COVID-19,” Alderson said. , and test drive appointments can be made up to six months in advance.

See: www.drivetest.ca for information on booking a test drive.

Meanwhile, De Clara said driving schools are trying to survive with online lessons for the next few weeks.

“That’s (in many cases) the only revenue streams that driving schools have had,” he said.