Restricted licence tests booked out

Restricted driver licensing tests have been booked out at all of Otago's venues, with learner drivers rushing to complete their practical assessment before the introduction of tougher criteria later this month.

The New Zealand Transport Agency has introduced stricter criteria for restricted driver tests, which take effect on February 27.

New Zealand Automobile Association Otago district manager Nick Horn said Dunedin tests were booked out within five days of the announced introduction of the tougher restricted criteria.

"Everyone coming in now will be booking the new test for March," he said.

Vehicle Testing New Zealand Dunedin manager Graeme Lewis said the earliest learner drivers could book in for a restricted test was March 9.

"We booked out very quickly. We've had lots of interest, but there are also a lot of very disappointed people who missed out," he said.

The move to the tougher practical driving tests has also resulted in Mosgiel and Wanaka being dropped from a list of 52 national assessment venues.

Mosgiel BP 2go Alco owner Kirsty Fiddes is an AA booking agent for driver licences. She said Mosgiel only had one date available, each month, for learner drivers to sit their restricted tests.

That February 15 date had been booked "well in advance" of the announcement Mosgiel would be cut as a restricted licence testing venue.

However, a surge in interest had meant she had been busy booking in driver licence tests for other venues, she said.

"We've fielded inquiries and even booked drivers in who are prepared to travel to Alexandra and Balclutha to sit their tests there, before the change," Mrs Fiddes said.

It was disappointing Mosgiel had been dropped as a testing venue, particularly as the town had so many young novice drivers at secondary school locally, she said.

Stricter criteria, which require drivers to negotiate lights, multiple lane mergers and roundabouts, could all be tested locally, Mrs Fiddes said.

AA North Otago manager Wayne Kinzett said restricted driving practical tests in Oamaru were often booked out two or three weeks ahead. The Oamaru AA centre had experienced a slight increase in demand for bookings.

NZTA brought in the tougher tests in a bid to improve road safety for young novice drivers under a government policy aimed at addressing New Zealand's youth driver accident rate.



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