Victoria-based driving instructors are concerned for their own and the community’s safety with the continued number of residents from COVID hotspots in the Lower Mainland coming to the city to take their driving road tests. (Black Press Media file photo)

Victoria-based driving instructors are concerned for their own and the community’s safety with the continued number of residents from COVID hotspots in the Lower Mainland coming to the city to take their driving road tests. (Black Press Media file photo)

Students from COVID hotspots travel to Victoria for driving tests

Union leader calls on government to institute stronger travel ban

The vice-president of the union representing ICBC road test examiners is calling for the province to put a hard ban on people from the mainland coming to Victoria for driving tests.

“We’re concerned about our members’ safety, but we’re really actually concerned about our community,” said Annette Toth, who works out of Victoria. “We see this as a public health issue. It isn’t just about coming to Victoria for a road test, they’re coming on the ferry, maybe dining out.”

In response to a query from Black Press Media, Toth polled the two driver exam offices operating in Victoria from Tuesday to Saturday (Dec. 1 to Dec. 5). On Friday, one location reported a whopping 29 per cent of the day’s tests had been taken by Lower Mainland residents. The average throughout the week sat just shy of 13 per cent.

Already, 15 per cent of Saturday’s tests have been booked for Lower Mainland residents. That number could increase later in the day when Toth said more mainlanders traditionally take tests here.

In an earlier request for figures, ICBC compiled addresses for people taking Class 5 road tests in the first week of November, before the latest public health orders aimed at keeping people home. It found that of 388 drivers tested, 27 or about seven per cent, gave Lower Mainland addresses.

READ ALSO: Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

To address the backlog caused when COVID-19 shut down testing earlier this year, the corporation added about 100 examiners and opened up 10 new locations, including one at the ICBC claims centre on Dunedin Street in Victoria. The statement said that since road tests have resumed, the average wait time is about the same on the Lower Mainland as in Victoria, roughly 40 days.

“We strongly encourage customers to test where they live,” ICBC stated.

From examiners’ and the union’s perspective, today’s numbers show people still aren’t getting the message.

“For us this isn’t a numbers game, we feel that one [person coming over] is too many. We really believe this is a public health issue,” Toth said, adding the ministry responsible needs to mandate that people “stop travelling if it’s not essential for getting a job.”

ICBC takes stringent safety measures to keep staff and customers safe in its offices and in vehicles, it said in the statement. Anyone taking a road test is asked a series of health screening questions and provided with a mandatory medical-grade mask to wear during the test. Examiners wear personal protective equipment, which can include a combination of masks, shields, goggles, gloves and the use of disposable seat covers.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 outbreak hits first Greater Victoria hospital

The issue of Lower Mainland residents coming to Victoria to take their road tests is not new, said Toth, a statement echoed by Kate Wells, owner/operator of DriveWise BC, a driving instruction school.

Her company frequently receives calls from mainland residents wishing to use her company’s vehicles to “warm up” for taking their road test in Victoria. But she made a policy some weeks ago to not accept clients from outside Greater Victoria.

“It’s a concern for us for sure,” Wells said. “We need to stay safe for our customers.”

The current public health travel advisory from the province asks residents to “stay local and avoid non-essential travel within B.C.”


 

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