• Tony Bosworth

Colo Heights mum gets petition up to accelerate driving tests for teens as COVID puts the brakes on

Updated: Jan 10

We all know how poor public transport is in many areas of the Hawkesbury and it’s led a Colo Heights mum to set up a petition calling on Hawkesbury MP Robyn Preston to get in gear and push for shorter driving test waiting times for our teens.

Kathryn and mum Rosalynd Martin

There’s been a big blow out on driving test availability as COVID hits staff at test centres, including Richmond, where there’s now a minimum wait of a month for a test and very often much longer.

And the shortage of tests is not just in the Hawkesbury, so even travelling to another test centre far away doesn’t seem to solve the problem.

“We live in a rural part of the Hawkesbury in Colo Heights and I have tried to get my daughter an early age licence for education and employment purposes,” says Rosalynd Martin. “We’ve tried as far away as Tamworth and Taree, but no success.

“We have been trying for months to book this in and there have been no appointments available for at least 6 months,” Mrs Martin told the Post.

Her daughter Kathryn has worked hard to get her driving hours up so she can sit the driving test, not least because her mum is having to drive her from home to education and work.

“Rural teens are in desperate need of their licence,” said Mrs Martin.

“I can no longer work the hours I need to provide for my family because I’m needing to taxi my daughter 4 hours a day to and from educational and work engagements, and it’s been that way for 6 months.

“I also have a 8-year-old old son who I have to get to school and back again.

“With no public transport, and I might add we have no before and after school services in our area, something needs to be done, and done quick.”

Mrs Martin says she’s hearing day in and day out from frustrated parents in remote areas with the same issue.

And she’s calling on Hawkesbury MP Preston to put pressure on to get some action for local teens.

“What are you going to do in the Hawkesbury for our children?” asks Mrs Martin of the MP, “the government needs to step up and take action for our communities.

“Step it up for our Hawkesbury teens. They deserve to be listened to.”

Young learner drivers in the Hawkesbury can apply – as can all rural teens – for an early age licence but Mrs Martin says her experience is there’s little point because that is also being rejected across NSW.

You can apply for an early age test at age 16 and 6 months, if you’ve held L-plates for 6 months, do extra driving lessons (the safer driver course ), pay $150, have a letter from employers or education, and a letter from Transport for NSW to prove there is no transport available, plus a letter from anyone with a licence living in the same household, and you also have to complete the 120 hours driving plus 20 hours night driving.

“All that had to be done before even applying for the test,” said Mrs Martin, “and then we were told by the test centre it would be rejected. I’ve been told teens as far out as St Albans also have been refused recently.”

There was nothing to be done but wait until Kathryn turned 17 and now she can get her Ps, but only if she can get a test and pass it.

She was told by the RMS test centre in Richmond it could be 5 to 6 months’ wait for a test.

“It’s unacceptable for our rural teens not to be able to get their licence to keep themselves moving forward with their education or employment and it means parents having to make the choice between working to provide for their family or by reducing work hours to drive their teens to education or jobs,” says Mrs Martin.

“Something needs to be done asap to clear this backlog in licencing, not least because our kids have no access to public transport in a lot of areas in the Hawkesbury and now have limited access to licence testing too.

“The Blue Mountains, Bilpin, St Albans, Upper MacDonald, all these areas would be feeling the same stresses that we are.”

A spokesperson for Service NSW told the Post they were, “experiencing a high demand for driver testing across the state due to the impact of COVID restrictions.

“However, Service NSW is actively recruiting new driver testers to better meet the high demand.

“Online bookings for driver testing are still available statewide.

“The wait time for Richmond Service Centre is about four weeks. However this number changes when more customers book their test.

“Service NSW understands the wait time is frustrating and appreciates customer patience and understanding as testing returns to normal.”

The spokesperson said a temporary driver testing site had been put in place at Howell Oval in Penrith to assist the Nepean-Hawkesbury region, and they said that had a current wait time of one week.

“Driver testers must be fully vaccinated and customers either need to be fully vaccinated or have received a negative COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test result on the day of their driver or rider licence test,” said the spokesperson.

“A photo of your negative test next to your existing licence or ID on a mobile phone is sufficient proof. A negative PCR test is no longer required,” said the spokesperson.

“Guidelines for face masks, disposable seat covers, hand sanitiser and other personal protective equipment remains in place.”

For more information on driver testing and Covid-19 visit, https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/driver-testing-and-covid-19

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