A decision to remove certain elements of the G class driving test in Ontario was done without safety evaluations or formal approval from cabinet, the province’s auditor general says.
In his 2023 Annual General Report, acting auditor general Nick Stavropoulos noted that a change to the test, which removed what the government called “duplicative” elements such as emergency stops, three-point turns and parallel parking, was made “without the support of proper policy analysis.”
The test changes were made in an effort to clear a backlog of hundreds of thousands of appointments stemming from closures related to the COVID-19 pandemic. They were supposed to be temporary, however in June 2022, the government announced the modified test would remain in place permanently due to “high demand for class G road tests across Ontario.”
The minister of transportation at the time, Caroline Mulroney, said this would help streamline the process as the maneuvers cut are still part of the standard G2 tests.
However, the auditor general report notes that about 54,000 drivers from other countries, who can bypass the G2 road test if they have a driver’s licence from their home country, are no longer being tested for those techniques in Ontario.
“Important skills, such as parallel parking, three-point turns, and driving in proximity to pedestrians, were not consistently assessed.”
The report notes that in 2020, the ministry funded 84 additional driver examiners to help reduce a 500,000-passenger road test backlog.
“At the time, the ministry did not consider reducing the requirements for the G (highway) road test to be a viable solution as it noted that ‘policy changes would require extensive policy analysis, including determining whether these policy changes would have impacts on road safety,’” Stavropoulos wrote.
“Despite its assessment, the ministry later reduced the requirements of the G (highway) road test in response to the minister’s request to reduce the road test backlog, but without conducting extensive policy analysis or seeking formal approval from the Cabinet Office.”
The ministry did evaluate the modified road test by analyzing changes in the pass-fail rates of the test, the report says, as well as at-fault collision rates of newly licensed G-class drivers. However, the auditor general noted this was an ineffective measure.
According to the report, driver examiners have a “pass rate target” that makes the province’s 71 per cent pass rate for full and reduced G road tests inaccurate.
“Supervisors told us that driver examiners with an average weekly pass rate that deviated noticeably from the average (typically 15 per cent higher or lower) would be subject to a performance review,” the report says. “As such, there was an incentive for examiners to achieve consistent pass rates.”
In response to the report, the Ministry of Transportation says it will evaluate road safety impacts of the modified G test as part of a broader evaluation of Ontario’s Graduated Licensing system.
“Based on the outcome of the comprehensive driver examination review, the Ministry will determine whether the modified road test should continue to test all drivers for full licensure or if there is an alternative option that is more appropriate.”
The auditor general also found that, on a general basis, road examinations may not be effectively testing drivers’ abilities. Many driving students might be given “route training” to practise the specific course of their driving exam or novice drivers may go to more rural areas for their test rather than stay near their home or place of work.
Drivers who took road tests at rural centres were statistically more likely to crash, the report found, with collision rates 16 to 27 per cent higher than drivers who took tests where they lived.
According to the audit, novice drivers who completed these programs and opted to take a time discount had higher rates of collisions than drivers who did not. Despite this, taking a driving education program is not mandatory or required before taking a test. The report says the government feels that making this training mandatory “might undermine the role and responsibility of parents in teaching safe driving skills to their children.”
MYSTERY SHOPPERS ALLOWED TO SHORTEN TRAINING
There were 33 mystery-shopping visits to driving schools between 2018 and 2020. According to the report, over half of the schools allowed those shoppers to shorten or fully abandon their training while still issuing Beginner Driver Education certificates.
Five of those 33 driving schools had their licences revoked by the ministry.
No mystery shopping ventures have been performed since the beginning of 2020. However, the auditor general’s office conducted its own investigation at 14 “high-risk driving schools” and found that 11 provided Beginner Driver Education certificates with less than the 10 hours of in-car training.
The audit also found the ministry did not follow up on findings from previous audits to ensure violations at driving schools were rectified.
“At the time of our audit, the ministry did not have a policy to determine what kind of follow-up actions were necessary to address violations reported through compliance audits,” the report said.
The ministry has said it is looking into strengthening oversight, which will include “a policy for timely on-site follow-ups at driving schools with either serious or a high number of compliance violations.”
The auditor general also found the company contracted to deliver driving examinations—Plenary, in conjunction with its partner Serco Inc.—consistently failed to improve service levels over time.
The government was also forced to put millions of taxpayer money into the construction of a new DriveTest Centre because the company refused to open a new location,, despite increased demand.
“The Ministry estimated that it paid about $19.2 million in total subsidies during this period.”
This is in addition to about $35 million in pandemic relief.
Despite not meeting performance targets, the same companies were awarded a new contract in a non-competitive procurement process “because the procurement process started too late.”