A backlog of road test appointments close to St. John's this summer has at least one driver making a three-hour trek to get his licence.
Loyola O'Brien is one would-be driver struggling to nab a road test slot near his home in St. John's. O'Brien had a stroke earlier this year — resulting in the temporary suspension of his license — but he's since received medical clearance to try for it again.
As he's discovered, however, scheduling the test itself is easier said than done.
O'Brien is among dozens facing a month-long wait to sit for a road test on the Avalon, with Service NL confirming steady demand and zero availability for the month of July.
O'Brien couldn't find any openings in Mount Pearl, Harbour Grace or Clarenville for the upcoming four weeks, he said.
One slot was available in Marystown, so O'Brien went ahead and booked it. But as he pointed out on The St. John's Morning Show, it's "a big haul" travelling from St. John's to the Burin Peninsula.
"Here I am recovering, and so to drive for three and a half hours from St. John's to Marystown, that's a lot of stimulation for the brain ... which is probably going to have a negative effect on my ability to drive and concentrate that day," he said.
"I'm lucky I have family that are able to take me out, but if it was somebody else and you were on your own, you'd have to hire somebody to take you."
Service NL Minister Sarah Stoodley said while she empathizes with anyone facing delays, the summer testing schedule isn't any busier than usual.
"I can certainly understand how frustrating that is for him and for others in his situation," she said.
The motor registration building in Mount Pearl serves the entire St. John's metro area. With 27 road tests taking place there every day, Stoodley said Mount Pearl is the busiest location in the province.
Stoodley estimates that road tests at three of the province's motor registration branches, including the one in Mount Pearl, have a wait time of three to four weeks. People can also ask to be added to a waiting list. In Mount Pearl, Stoodley said about 60 people are on that waiting list at the moment.
The pandemic, she said, isn't prolonging that waiting period, despite the added time to sanitize between appointments.
"This is kind of our normal standard, unfortunately, our normal summer booking period, because people get their driver's tests in the summer," she said.
To help meet the St. John's metro area's ongoing road test demand, Stoodley said the department is bringing in a couple of driving examiners from other areas of the province.