Small town tests failing new drivers on big city streets

Nick McCaw’s road to his drivers licence took him from his small hometown of Picton, Ont., through Belleville, where he passed his G2 test.

Now driving in Toronto for work, the 22-year-old says that walking out of the Belleville DriveTest centre leaves students unprepared to drive in the city.

“Coming from the country, there’s a smaller population and less people on the road,” McCaw said. “You need more practice and honing on driving skills before moving on to heavily congested city streets.

“Driving in the city takes more practice and more time to be comfortable.”

You pass … and then you crash.

—Angelo DiCicco

Though McCaw wasn’t from the city he now drives in, many students from Toronto seek out smaller towns in which to get their licences, said Angelo DiCicco, general manager for the GTA Young Drivers of Canada school.

“If what you’re looking for is a quick, easy road test and the fastest path to that, you get someone who prepares you for one road test,” he said. “You pass … and then you crash.”

Roughly 20 per cent of his school’s students seek to do a driving test in rural, low-population towns, said DiCicco, who’s taught driving lessons for 25 years.

“Quite a few ask to but generally we don’t accommodate them,” he said. “If you’re so anxious that you’re unable to perform, you should be questioning your ability to drive there the next day when you have a stamped piece of paper.

“You should get tested in the city where you’re going to be driving,” DiCicco said. “It’s a more accurate representation of what you’re going to be doing day after day, year after year.”

A Toronto Star investigation in 2010 reported many Toronto driving schools take students to smaller towns outside the city, such as Bancroft, to take their driver’s test. In these towns, where there is generally a lighter volume of traffic and less complicated driving conditions, teachers can coach students on the route they’ll be tested on.

“You might not do an appropriate left turn at an intersection because there may not be one,” DiCicco said. “All road tests are not created equal.”

Belleville Young Drivers instructor Everett Gow has taught students for 10 years. Some of of those students, he said, come from Toronto for lessons or to take the test.

“They feel intimidated by the traffic in the city,” he said.

Gow disagreed with the implication that drivers who earn their licences in smaller towns aren’t qualified to drive on Toronto’s busy streets.

“I keep telling [students] that there’s not much difference between the city of Belleville and the city of Toronto,” he said. “If they knew everything and put everything they learned into practice, they won’t get into trouble in the city.”

About this article

By: Morgaine Craven
Posted: Feb 22 2012 10:53 am
Filed under: Arts & Life

4 Comments on "Small town tests failing new drivers on big city streets"

  1. Did my tests in Toronto. Relatives and friends went to Belleville and always failed at least once. Peterborugh and Oshawa were very tough as well due to simply getting out of the parking lot if required to cross lanes of traffic.

  2. City student drivers learn to drive on city streets so they are familiar with city driving conditions. Many may take the driving test outside of the city because they can get the driving test sooner and they can be less stressful (I’ve had my experience with a sargeant type examiner!). I would be more fearful of people who normally live and drive outside of the city coming to work or vist in Toronto. The same thought applies to those people from countries who constantly drive in congested traffic and come here to drive among the fast and free flowing traffic lanes. There are some … seniors out there too who should not be driving either. In any case, the thought of these other scenarios scare me more.

  3. Here in Sault Ste Marie, we have that problem in reverse. Students living in some of the smaller, outlying communities typically have to come to the Sault to take their lessons. Some choose to do their road test here, but others can opt to take it in one of the smaller communities.

    These students typically practice in their home communities — with no traffic lights or multi-lane roadways — or by driving on Hwy 17 between their homes and the Sault. Some get very little experience driving in “big city” traffic, other than during their 90-minute lessons.

    Of course, even students living in the larger northern communities like the Sault, Sudbury or North Bay are not prepared to face the overwhelming experience of driving in the GTA, nor is there really anyway to give them that experience.

  4. The ministry of Transportation would state that their competency testing for new driver is consistent, regardless of the location. But at one and the same time, they also purport that training and testing prepare new drivers. The reality is it doesn’t – new drivers are at a high risk and it doesn’t matter if they’re driving in Wingham, ON or Ottawa.

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