Driving lesson

Waiting time for driving test extends to 290 days

Aspiring drivers currently have to wait at least 290 days for a license exam – a hangover after a three-month suspension caused by the fifth wave of the Covid pandemic now sparking trouble.

The average wait time for the combined test – a road test plus parking checks – for a private car license is 294 days, according to the Department for Transport.

But people who want to take the exam in Kowloon or the New Territories – considered easier than getting tested on Hong Kong Island with its more concentrated traffic and narrower roads – have to wait 313 days.

And it is 315 days on average for road and parking checks of light commercial vehicles.

If candidates fail any part of the combined exam, they must repeat it, with the average waiting time for the most difficult road exam being 284 days.

That would mean a hopeful driver who fails on the first try needs at least 578 days – around 18 months – to get a license the second time around.

Long waiting times upset citizens.

“You fail and you will wait over 300 days,” one noted in an angry online post. “The wait time was six months a few years ago, which was already too long,” said another. “Now it’s been a year.”

The message to the Department of Transportation complainers was that people who needed a second try could try to book an appointment for an early repeater test. One line repeater, Chen, said he failed his first exam in April and was risking months for a second chance.

“I signed up for the driving test in April last year and the test was scheduled for the end of January,” he said. “However, driving tests were suspended due to the pandemic at the end of January, so my test was postponed to the end of April. Unfortunately, I failed the test in April and have to retake it in early December.”

Chen added that he failed his first test because a taxi suddenly blocked his path as he was changing lanes and the examiner pressed the brake pedal.

He will be nervous the second time around, Chen added, because he has trouble paying attention to many things at once.

The waiting time for the exam is too long, he continued, although he is used to delays from public services. Still, he’s not too bothered as he won’t be buying a car anytime soon.

Another driving hopeful, Goh, said he failed the driving test twice in 2020 and finally decided to take the test on the mainland, where he currently works.

He intends to apply for a Hong Kong license using the mainland one after returning to the SAR.

Hong Kong Automobile Association President Ringo Lee Yiu-pui told The Standard yesterday that around 100 people had to take road tests every day when the tests were suspended in January, saying that up to 8,000 people were affected by the three-month break.

So a backlog was to be expected, Lee said, especially since the transportation department had many examiners infected during the latest wave of Covid.

But Lee also called on the department to adjust opening hours to tackle the backlog and thus gradually shorten the queue.

“Currently, on-road exams are scheduled Monday to Friday, so the Department of Transport might consider working on Saturdays as well,” he said, otherwise “the queue will only get longer.”

And driver’s license applicants may need to adjust their thinking, Lee added.

They usually start learning to drive on the roads two to three months before license exams, he said, but if they have to wait a long time for the tests, their driving skills and knowledge can get rusty. .