WHEEL IT IN: Phyllis Tabacco, 18, with 5th Gear Driving School owner Fiona McGlashan.

By PAUL MENSCH

BUDDING drivers throughout the Sunraysia can breath a sigh of relief this week because the easing of COVID-19 restrictions has allowed driving schools to re-open for business.

While learners are now able to hone their driving skills and clock up the necessary hours, VicRoads has yet to confirm when it will recommence the all-important driving tests, enabling these young drivers to obtain their Ps.

Owner of Mildura’s 5th Gear Driving School, Fiona McGlashan, said that she was informed last Thursday that driving schools like hers had been cleared by the government to commence taking driving lessons as of that Friday.

“It was such a relief to get that news after so many weeks sitting idle,” Fiona said.

“Angela Lanza and myself are the two instructors working six days a week at the moment, and with kids not being at school we are basically booked out which is great.

“We have had to implement a host of safety protocols to enable us to recommence driver training. Every time we finish a lesson the entire driver’s area is wiped down with disinfectant, including windows, door handles inside and out, gear stick, mirror adjustors and steering wheel. Anything that may have been touched throughout the lesson.”

“We have disinfectant wipes and solution on hand, and we have to ask the students if they have been overseas, and if they have they been near anyone who has had COVID-19. We also strongly advise that all students download the COVIDSAFE app as well.”

Fiona said the all-important question of when VicRoads will recommence testing is yet to be answered and there is sure to be a huge backlog.

“There has always been a six to seven-week wait for kids booking in to sit their licence, as well as people wanting convert from an international licence. So, you can imagine how long that line is going to be now,” she said.

“I’m sure that VicRoads are working hard at the moment to come up with solutions to this backlog once it recommences testing.

“For some students like Phyllis Tabacco, the timing of the coronavirus lockdowns couldn’t have been worse.

“She was booked in to sit her driving test on Tuesday, March 31, and celebrated her 18th birthday the same day, only to have everything cancelled the week before. 2020 has not been kind to her,” Fiona said.

Phyllis said that she had booked the test in mid-February to get the March 31 date, only to have it cancelled.

“I’m not really sure how long it will be before I will get to sit the driving test,” a disappointed Phyllis said.

Martin Dane, owner of Mildura Driving School, said that he had also received official notification from VicRoads last week that driving lessons could recommence.

“We were informed that we could restart driving lessons immediately, but that VicRoads would not be resuming testing at this stage,” Martin said.

“With that in mind, we have decided not to start taking lessons just yet. We will watch what the Victorian Government and VicRoads decide during the next few weeks and determine what do from there.”