By Samreen Maqsood
For students who have been relying on their cars to commute to work or school, getting their driver’s licence during the pandemic hasn’t been easy.
In March 2020, DriveTest centres halted all operations in Ontario amid health and safety concerns surrounding COVID-19. However, as of Feb. 16, the Ontario government is permitting in-vehicle passenger road tests in all regions not under the Grey-Lockdown Zone.
All DriveTest staff members are wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and driver examiners are required to have sanitizer packages, face shields and seat covers when conducting tests.
As reported by Driving.ca, roughly 18,000 road tests were cancelled in Ontario during the lockdown restrictions in November 2020. The ministry plans to hire over 100 temporary examiners to help with the “backlog,” and some centres are open for knowledge tests as well.
It’s been a full year since Alya Batool, a second-year biology student, tried to get her G driver’s licence. Batool currently only has her G2 licence, which she got in July 2019.
She said that in a country like Canada, where “driving is practically a necessity,” she was excited to finally get her full driver’s licence as it would reduce her commuting time.
“At this point, I’m only planning on getting my G [licence] because my G2 [licence] is going to expire in a year. Besides that, there’s no more excitement left,” she said.
A G2 licence is valid for five years from the day you received your G1 licence. For students who have already waited a while to get their licences, having COVID-19 backlog the process heightens their concerns.
As previously reported by The Eyeopener, Ryerson students have the second-longest commute in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA) among post-secondary students.
According to a survey, 30 per cent of students in the GTHA spend more than two hours commuting to and from campus each day. Sixty per cent of students said they felt discouraged from participating in campus activities and events because of the long commute.
For Eva Escandon, a second-year English and history student, using the GO bus or TTC transit “increases her fare and takes away a lot of extra time from her day.” She also needs her car to commute to her summer job, which was mainly farm work.
Driving to the GO station takes her 10 minutes, whereas the only bus that can get her there takes over 45 minutes. Escandon planned to get her G licence last summer, but services were closed.
With the constant shutting down of non-essential services and not getting enough opportunities to practice her driving, Escandon said she’s more nervous for her future driving tests. “With all the constant push backs, I’m gaining anxiety about not getting my full G licence before my G2 expires,” she said.
According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation website, road test appointments made through Driver Examination Centres are available within 42 days of the date requested. Appointments can be made through the DriveTest website, by phone or in-person at any DriveTest Centre.
The province suspended the renewal of driver’s licences, health cards and licence sticker plates in March 2020, with Premier Doug Ford saying at the time that it was “one less thing for Ontarions to worry about.”
The same month, the province introduced an extension on renewing Ontario driver’s licences. Documents such as driver’s licences, licence plate stickers and health cards that expired on or after March 1, 2020 will remain legal past the expiry date until further notice.
The Ontario government recommends renewing licences online, as per COVID-19 health guidelines. To renew online, you need your driver’s licence, your postal code and the seven digit trillium number found on the back. After this process, you will receive a temporary driver’s licence validation document if it has already expired or you renew within 28 days of your current driver’s licence expiry date.
There are some requirements for renewing your licence online. You can renew it if you have a full G or M class licence that isn’t cancelled, suspended or has not been expired for more than 12 months; you haven’t updated your address within the last 90 days; and you don’t need vision, written or reading tests. A list of other requirements can be found on the Service Ontario website.