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Learner drivers face uncertainty as assessments remain cancelled across WA

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Learner drivers are facing uncertainty as licencing centres remain closed and Practical Driving Assessments are cancelled across Western Australia amid the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Since the COVID-19 outbreak hit WA, the Department of Transport suspended all online C class (car) Practical Driving Assessment (PDA) bookings and cancelled all non-essential sessions. 

The cancellations and suspensions officially came into place on March 30, with all available tests allocated to only essential workers on a priority basis at four licencing sites which include City West, Kelmscott, Midland and Cannington. 

Its understood the Department is contacting all booked candidates to determine if they fall into the priority categories of freight task, medical reasons or carers and emergency services.

As of April 15, the Department of Transport had cancelled a total of 5185 non-essential C class PDAs across the Perth metropolitan area. 

“While the Department has commenced planning for the recovery of PDA services, it is not known at this stage when PDA bookings will return to normal,” a Department of Transport spokewoman said. 

“The recovery plan for PDAs will ensure that cancelled bookings are accommodated as soon as practicable while also allowing members of the public to resume booking PDAs.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Transport said it would continue to offer motorcycle licence and heavy vehicle PDAs to assist the freight industry.

“These steps are aimed at keeping employees and customers safe while delivering resources to where they are most needed,” Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said. 

 “This is an extremely challenging time and I urge customers to be patient as we manage the COVID-19 crisis.”

Currently, there are about 74,000 valid C class learners permits in the state, but not all of those are eligible to sit their practical driving assessment. 

Across the metropolitan area, licensing centres would typically see more than 95,000 C class PDAs per year. 

The Department ensured that those who had their bookings cancelled would be prioritised when PDA bookings return to normal. 

“We are keeping the details of customers whose PDAs have been cancelled and when operations return to normal, the Department will prioritise the rescheduling of these candidates before opening bookings for new candidates,” the spokeswoman said. 

“Learners and supervisors are encouraged to assess their need to continue practising at this time. 

“While practising, learners and supervisors should make sure they are adhering to all WA travel restrictions – and other government directions – currently in place.”

Before COVID-19 times, the Department said Practical Driving Assessments could be booked from one day to six months in advance. 

“Drivers could secure short and long-term appointments with availability constantly changing as candidates and instructors cancel and rebook tests,” DoT said.

“PDAs can be booked or cancelled 24/7 using the online booking system, by attending a DVS centre or agent, or by calling the contact centre.”  

Prior to March 30, there were over 2,500 available PDA bookings across the metropolitan area between 24 hours in advance and six months in advance. 

In response to the COVID19 pandemic, the Department also changed its medical assessment requirements for those who are particularly vulnerable and are unable to visit a doctor during this time.

DoT said anyone who can’t visit a doctor should call the contact centre on 13 11 56 to discuss the options available to renew their driver’s licence.

Options may be tailored to suit individual requirements based on personal circumstances and will take into consideration previous medical reports.

Some options that DoT may consider, include:

  • Directing the customer to speak to their doctor via phone/video to have a medical completed. The Commonwealth Government recently announced additional funding for this service.
  • Delaying the due date for the medical assessment so the customer can renew their driver’s licence in the interim. 
  • Enabling the customer to present other evidence to satisfy DoT of their fitness, such as a recent letter issued by a GP confirming fitness for other purposes (i.e. letter for Centrelink).
  • Accepting a declaration from the customer in cases where they are still under the care of the same doctor and there has been no changes to their health since their last assessment.

For more information visit the Department of Transport website here.

Tex Reeks

Texas (Tex) Reeks is a video journalist and national award-winning news photographer. Reeks' dedication and commitment to local news media and telling stories has seen him build an extensive portfolio in Western Australia's news industry from a young age. Writing online stories and covering news events for Perth's mainstream media networks, Reeks, has covered and broken some of WA's biggest breaking news stories including shark attacks, police manhunts, plane crashes, major crime investigations, and major political incidents. Reek's interest and knowledge in criminology and policing results in his focus on crime and court stories.
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