Long waits for L plates: Mandurah learners ‘exhausted’ by the process of booking a driving test

Local L-plate drivers are being forced to spend hours online in the hope of finding a cancellation in driving tests to avoid waiting up to six months to sit their Practical Driving Assessment (PDA).

Mandurah woman Samantha Ryan, 19, said she was told to check online “every two hours” to spot a cancellation and avoid waiting until June, 2019.

“The whole process was exhausting,” she said.

“I went to call at the start of December but they told me I had to go online and at first I thought it was a glitch that there were no tests available.

“I called again and they told me it books six months in advance and that the closest test was in June, 2019... but I really wanted my licence sooner than that.

“So he told me I just had to keep waiting and looking online.

“But I was looking everywhere for absolutely any time and there was nothing – there’s no way there’s that many learners doing tests.”

A Department of Transport spokeswoman said the extended waiting period for Mandurah learners wanting to sit their PDA could be blamed on the increase in new drivers failing their tests and having to repeat them.

“The booking pressure is fundamentally caused by a high failure rate due to lack of preparation by novice drivers and supervisors,” she said.

“Despite no changes to the test criteria we continue to see a high fail rate, which this year has added an additional 7500 tests to our program [across WA].

“The most common reasons people fail their PDA include a lack of preparation, insufficient driving experience and/or lack of knowledge about road rules.”

The Mandurah Mail recently reported more than half of all Mandurah learner drivers attempting their practical tests in 2018, failed.

New statistics from the Department of Transport show 5,993 people sat the test in Mandurah last year and 52.6 per cent of drivers were unsuccessful.

Only 47.4 per cent passed.

A spokeswoman also said a further 4,000 tests were cancelled because candidates failed to arrive or arrived in an unsafe or unregistered vehicle.

“Learner drivers should aim to be well prepared with sufficient driving experience in a variety of conditions when attempting their PDA to ensure they don’t have to resit the test, which puts pressure on both the driver and other people seeking to book a test,” she said.

Ms Ryan said she considered driving up to eight hours away to sit her driving test.

“I was willing to go elsewhere… but there were no tests coming up at all,” she said.

“It wasn’t just in Mandurah, it was everywhere in WA – there were no tests anywhere. I was even asking for Esperance, I would’ve gone anywhere.

“Then I managed to get a test in Success for May, 2019, which was the earliest I could find.”

The Department of Transport spokeswoman said it was a “mistake” to try and take the PDA at an unfamiliar location.

“People [think] that taking their children to a quiet country location to sit their test will improve their chances but it won’t as they typically fail at a higher rate due to unfamiliarity with the local conditions,” she said.

The Mandurah Driver and Vehicle Services (DVS) currently conducts up to 45 PDAs per day.

While PDAs are also released on a daily basis, the Mandurah DVS centre has limited accommodation and staffing capabilities, compared with other metropolitan DVS centres. 

The spokeswoman said there were PDA improvements currently underway at surrounding DVS centres that would hopefully assist with reducing demand at the Mandurah centre.

These include:

  • Recruiting additional assessors, with an additional 6 driver assessors set to be employed by February.
  • Cross-skilling customer service officers so they can conduct a number of tests each week.
  • Trialling the extension of operation hours at the Kelmscott centre, both during the week and on Saturday mornings.
  • Trialling the use of SMS reminders to combat no-shows.
  • Changing session times to increase the number of assessments conducted.
  • Improving the rigor of the test by adopting tablet technology.