You Passed the Driving Test... But Are You Fit to Drive?


Empty classroom; desks facing chalkboard
Photo by Ivan Aleksic on Unsplash

In Canada, the driving test is a relatively new requirement for taking to the roads, having been introduced in Ontario, the first jurisdiction in Canada, in 1994. Since then, millions of drivers have passed through the system and taken the test in order to receive their license.


While the test has become a normal part of the process for Canadians, a new article in The Globe and Mail by Jason Tchir asks the question - is the driving test effective?


Pointing out the flaws in the system currently in place doesn't mean that those who have license don't know how to drive. But, according to Tchir and experts he spoke to for his piece, the driving test isn't necessarily the best way of verifying skill.


In Canada, the driving test that is administered mainly consists of questions regarding rules of the road and asking testers to identify various road signs. This is information that can be easily memorized in the lead up to the test, but doesn't necessarily probe potential drivers on more complicated driving tasks. And, as one person Tchir interview pointed out, practice tests have proliferated online, with many people taking the test saying they don't consult the driving handbook at all.


"The handbooks and tests in most provinces focus on basics. Several other countries, including Germany and Sweden, have mandatory classroom instruction and tests that focus on driving risks - including stats on crashes and impaired driving - and situations drivers will face on the road."

While many people taking the test prepare by taking a driver education course, often because of the break on insurance that it comes with, it is only mandatory in one province, Quebec, where students must take 24 hours of theory classes and spend 15 hours with a driving instructor behind the wheel. In other provinces, drivers are free to skip ahead to the test, and if they've done enough practice tests online, are likely to pass without being seriously evaluated for how they would handle dangerous driving situations.


Aside from the written test, in some provinces, like Ontario, there is a driving test as well. But as Tchir learned, this isn't the barrier for poor drivers that we might think it is. There are a handful of tips for getting an easier time on the road test, from booking on Friday when things are likely running behind and being rushed, to going out of the way for test centers where the roads are easier to navigate or where the testers are considered more lenient.


"The road test shows how you drove for those eight to 10 minutes near the testing center - but not how you'll handle unexpected situations on the road, DiCicco [Angela DiCicco, special project manager at the Ontario Safety League] said."

Those who Tchir interviewed believed the Canadian driving test system needs an overhaul. For some that means mandatory driver education in order to receive your license, for others a winter a driving component that requires you to take a test in the winter and summer. Angela DiCicco also argued that tests should become more regular, meaning one every five to seven years to ensure that skills aren't atrophying and that drivers are still practicing safe behaviors.


Any overhaul of the system will take time and money. But the more aware we are of the problems with the system as it exists, the more collective motivation we'll have to ensure that the driving test is keeping up with our needs as a society. After all, driving is a big responsibility, and we should be able to rest assured that that responsibility is being given out appropriately.


For more on this issue, check out the original article in the Globe and Mail by Jason Tchir.