By Shira Rubinoff 
BELLEVILLE — As Ontario addresses high demand for driving tests thanks to a backlog built up during the pandemic, many new drivers in the Quinte region are left with months to wait for their driving exams.
Carol Masterson, a Belleville resident, says that her daughter Leah has been trying to book her driving test for over a year now and has faced two appointment cancellations since mid-2020.
According to Masterson, appointments are always fully booked three or four months in advance on the official DriveTest website.
“There have been a few posts I’ve seen people post where there’s appointments available, they’ve opened up that day. Well that’s not any good for her because for one, she’s working and she’s not on the website to book them. So she can’t even get these last minute appointments,” Masterson said.
Since March 2020, the Ministry of Transportation has cancelled 421,827 road exams as a result of pandemic measures.
To help deal with the backlog, nine temporary road test centres are now open. But many are in and around the Greater Toronto Area, and the ministry says there are no current plans to open new locations.
Some Facebook users are also complaining that people from the GTA are booking their appointments in Belleville, taking spots away from local residents.
Gabrielle Ascott on Facebook wrote, “You may be lucky (to) come across (one) local a week doing their test. It’s all from Toronto. Locals do not have access to public transit like those in the cities. The demographic here should take priority in testing opportunities.”
The temporary road testing centres are in Burlington, East Gwillimbury, Guelph, Niagara, Mississauga, Markham, Ottawa, Oshawa and Sarnia.
The ministry also extended open hours of the centres and hired 251 temporary driving examiners.