Echuca's budding drivers play the waiting game

PEOPLE power is hoping to force the Victorian Government into making the learner driver permit test an online option.

And Echuca families are joining the growing army of protesters.

Because without an online test, young country drivers could be waiting months as VicRoads struggles to deal with a massive backlog of rescheduled appointments due to COVID-19 restrictions.

A petition started by two Shepparton residents has already gathered more than 26,000 signatures — and counting.

Echuca’s Natalie Peacock is one of the signatories to have signed the petition.

“I absolutely agree the learner’s permits should be online,” Natalie said.

“My daughter, Payton, turned 16 in June and there is no date in sight as to when she can even apply to get her L plates.

“I’m really worried about these kids, as they will be waiting a longer time after they turn 18 on getting their P plates, especially regional kids who will need/want to travel to university or obtain work outside of the Echuca area.

“It puts a lot more pressure on parents. If the test could go online at least they are a step in front when restrictions are lifted.

“VicRoads will be that far behind, who knows when it could happen.

“Also, in regional areas VicRoads could still be operating the tests as the area could be wiped down after each test similar to when you use the self-serve checkout at the supermarket — it’s the same thing.”

Natalie’s daughter Payton Hearn said she was disappointed she had to wait.

“Most of my friends have their learner's, so it feels like I’m getting left behind a little bit,” she said.

“I was really excited to drive, so it’s disappointing I have to wait. I was really hoping I would be able to drive to work and when Mum goes shopping.

“It’s annoying not knowing when I might be able to start driving.”

A Victorian Government spokesperson said the demand to move the test online during the pandemic was understandable.

“We’re currently looking at ways we can increase access to online registration and licencing services for Victorians, including learner and hazard perception tests,” the spokesperson said.

“We know the suspension of learner permit tests is impacting many regional Victorians, but this is what needs to be done to protect the health and wellbeing of our staff and customers and slow the spread of coronavirus.

“We’re continuing to work on initiatives to significantly boost our capacity to get through the backlog of computer-based and light vehicle tests once restrictions allow us to do so, including opening new pop-up testing sites and hiring additional staff.”

Victorian Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh said in response to repeated calls from The Nationals to move the learner driver test online, senior transport staff had confirmed that the issue was under consideration.

“We are all very aware of the need to take measures to stop the spread of COVID-19; however, this is already a computer-based test, which could be done safely online,” Mr Walsh said.

“Getting your Ls is a rite of passage for young people in country Victoria.

“Unlike in Melbourne, where there are endless options to get you from A to B, a driver’s licence is crucial for young people in my electorate, where public transport is limited.

“It also helps take the pressure off regional families who have to travel long distances each day to attend school, university, medical appointments or to do the shopping and play sports.

“In a time when our youth are being asked to cope with online learning, not interacting with their friends and not being able to play sport, we need to keep some normality for them — sitting for their learner's permit should be an easy part of life we can offer them.”

The Victorian Government currently has a hardship testing process supporting those who need a licence for essential work.

Anyone who wishes to apply to take a computer-based or light vehicle test due to special circumstances can apply on the VicRoads website.

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