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Driving instructors hit back - Monday, January 7, 2008

The Hamilton Spectator
Monday, January 7, 2008
Rachel De Lazzer

Leaders in the driving instruction business met in Hamilton Saturday to respond to a critical auditor general's report. The result was the drafting of a media letter outlining their case. "We care about road safety in Ontario," the letter says. The auditor general's report, it adds, "falls short on specifics." The report, issued early last month, found motorists who take driving training get into more crashes. Fraudulent driver schools, it said, appear to be illegally selling graduation certificates. And hundreds of instructors are collecting demerit points for common violations like speeding and disobeying traffic signs, it claimed. Gurdip Atwal, president of Allstate Driving Instructors' Association of Ontario, called the report flawed. Most driving schools, he said, are teaching well, but some people are going to certain "unsavoury" schools that will sell them a driver training certificate without taking any courses. The letter is only the most recent attempt by the industry to get Ontario's transportation ministry to hear its voice.

The ministry announced new regulations to come into effect in a staggered time line from last September into 2008 Dez Miklós, secretary of the Driver Instructors' Golden Horseshoe Association, says the industry sees several rules as unreasonable but calls one in particular "draconian." This is a rule requiring a person to have zero demerit points before obtaining a certificate to teach in-car lessons and maintain at least four points to keep it. Previously, a person qualified for the certificate despite six points or less. It was revoked only at nine points. Atwal and Miklos say driving instructors log so many hours on the road that the limits are unrealistic. "We drive 60,000, 70,000 kilometres a year," said Atwal, who also teaches with and owns Starlite Driver Training in Guelph and Cambridge. "And when you do that, there is a very good chance ... you are going to get some minor offences like this." Miklos is host of a safe driving show on McMaster's CFMU radio. The ministry says in press releases the measures are designed to raise standards in the driving instruction industry.

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