RE.: ‘Learning to drive now a costly venture’ (April 19, 2003)
The Hamilton Spectator, Letters to the Editor
Saturday, April 26, 2003

As a driving school owner/operator, I know learning to drive is a costly venture. But driving is a privilege, not a right. And it is not a part-time or leisure activity. It’s a full-time job, requiring effort to learn the necessary skills.

Seldom do driver trainers defend the Ministry of Transportation. But the MTO loses money on each G1 license issued. The $100.00 fee must cover the five-year span of the license, G1 and G2 license photos, plus temporary green permits, and pay for the first driving test to exit from G1 to G2.

To obtain a G1 license, a candidate must pass a written test. The writer laments that failure means spending another $10.00 on a repeat. This is why the Official Driver’s Handbook is needed. Many candidates decide against taking driver education and wing it on this written exam.

When it’s time to move up, failing the G1 exit test means $40.00 for each retest until the G2 level is reached. That fee partially pays MTO for providing all that goes with licensing. Because the fee does not cover all costs, the government is privatizing road testing, arguing that the private sector can offer a more cost-effective operation. Time will tell.

At the end of five years, drivers possessing a G2 license must pass another exit test to obtain a full G license. Currently, this costs $ 75.00. It is a very difficult exam, taking up to 30 minutes, and involves driving on an expressway. It is not child’s play. One must be properly prepared. If a G2 holder is not ready to get a G, he/she may redo another G1 exit test to get a new G2 license for another five years. Not going for either a G2 or G license means they must start all over again as a G1 driver.

At $12.95, the Official Driver’s Handbook is a bargain. Driving school operators must have at least 10 copies ($ 129.50 plus GST) to complement the outdated Roadworthy book that we’re supposed to use for classes. The Roadworthy book, of which we must have enough copies to meet our enrollment, also costs a lot. It needs to be rewritten. But at what cost?

There are two groups in Ontario that approve driving schools – MTO and Driving Schools Association of Ontario (DSAO). Both have informational Web sites. Being an accredited MTO course provider costs money. School premises, office computers and furnishings, utilities, vehicles plus maintenance and insurance, educational equipment and supplies, etc. Insurance on training vehicles averages $4,500.00 a year, prompting many schools to carry a $2,000.00 deductible – payable when the training vehicle is in a collision caused by the student. Insurers do not like driving schools – they’re deemed a dangerous profession.

The letter writer’s quoted sum of $380.00 for driving school is low for
Hamilton. Most charge $400.00 to $600.00-plus for a certificate course. And, at $75.00 for a rented vehicle for a road test, she’s getting another bargain.

The writer feels that driving schools and MTO are squeezing her for extra money by failing candidates. Believe me, many candidates are very nervous and don’t need any help to fail. MTO has no vested interest in failing a student – there are no commissions given to examiners for the number of students they pass or fail. And legitimate driving schools will not allow use of their vehicles for a road test if they feel a candidate is not ready.

Everyone in the driver training industry recommends that parents / partners take the student driver out for at least 10 hours of practice for each hour of training. Too many students are shortchanged in this regard: A practice vehicle might not be available, a parent / partner might be unavailable – or just too scared to get in the car with the student.

But, without practice and experience, candidates cannot expect to pass a road test. In fact, there are some licensed parents / partners who would also fail the same road test that their family member faces – and probably by a greater margin. Many licensed drivers are not as good as they think they are.

Graduated licensing was introduced to allow students to mature and gain some experience. The question of maturity is a touchy issue. Most young people don’t understand the laws of physics. And they do not comprehend that driving errors can lead to death or disability. Thus they do stupid things. That’s why insurance is so high for those aged 16 to 24 – especially those without any formal driver training.

Without proper preparation, there would be total anarchy on our roads. Those in the driver-training and insurance industries, together with the MTO, are striving to create a safe environment on the roads. All of our efforts are wasted if drivers fail to come to grips with the responsibility of owning and driving a vehicle.

Dez Miklòs jr., Hamilton