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NT Driver Training & Licensing industry - Zipper's Driving School

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Comments expressed in these columns are opinions of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of others.

CHANGES TO DRIVING TEST

NOT ALL QUESTIONS ANSWERED

DEFAULT SPEED LIMIT LOWERED

2004 1 May 2004 31 March 2005
The Vehicle On Road Test (VORT) conducted by the MVR has been made more challenging in response to concerns that the test is not as demanding as the assessments carried out with the DTAL log book system.
Dept Planning & Infrastructure (DPI) call it "VORT tightening"

MANOEUVRES

Three of the four manoeuvres (90° angle park, reverse parallel park, hill start, U-turn) must be achieved to pass the test, if the candidate's "general drive" score is marginal then all 4 manoeuvres must be successful to pass.
"Dry steering"* (steering while car is stationary) is no longer accepted and if done during a manoeuvre will fail that manoeuvre.

COASTING

"Coasting" (driving with the clutch in, or with the gears in neutral) is not acceptable on approach to intersections or other hazards.
This has always been a significant car-control fault and licensing examiners will be especially alert for this undesirable technique.

MORE CHALLENGING

Each test route includes driving through a "tight" situation - for example: turn right from Woolworths City carpark into Smith St St, drive through Casuarina Square or Palmerston underground carparks, or the Hibiscus shopping centre carparks, and emerging from Darwin city laneways.

SCORING

Scores (percentages of 100 points) will no longer be given at the end of the test. Instead the result will be recorded simply as pass or fail.
This reflects competency-based assessment systems where a standard is either reached or not reached.

*What's wrong with dry steering?
Dry steering is undesirable because it puts considerable strain on a car's steering linkages, damages the road surface and scrubs the tyres. And, of course, dry steering could fail your NT driving test!
In May 2004 a meeting of all stakeholders in the DTAL program was held to explain the sweeping changes to the DTAL Program. Not all the fears of instructors were allayed however...

Although the 10th May meeting addressed and answered some questions, there are many concerns to be raised. Some examples of these are:

Query handling at MVR
At present, trainers do not know the best person to talk to at the MVR to get accurate information.
Closely related is the next concern...

Consistency in advice
There have been significant differences in advice received, not only between the two NT government departments DEET & DIPE, but also from within the MVR Audit Cell in DIPE.

Long waiting list for Vehicle On Road Tests (VORT)  (6 weeks, will possibly worsen)
DIPE maintains that a long waiting list is an advantage which helps ensure that applicants have retained their skills. This is certainly true, but it is the right solution for the wrong problem.
It is up to the applicant, assisted by the trainer, to ensure that his/her skills are maintained and it is up to the MVR as a Public Service to ensure that VORT tests are available within a reasonable time.
Long waiting lists encourage desperate instructors & students to "bulk book" well ahead, adding to the difficulty of conducting cost-efficient training and further straining the limited resources of the MVR.

Differences between Log Book and VORT
This is a serious concern, there is no doubt that the Competency Based assessing system is far superior if done correctly.
Closely related is the next concern...

Depth of knowledge & experience of current Licence Testing Officers (LTO)
This is a major concern of all driver trainers, especially the experienced ones used to the higher standards & greater professionalism of the "pre-log book" LTOs.
Also of concern is that complaints against LTOs by instructors on behalf of their students (inconsistency, unfair testing, mis-treatment, abuse) do not seem to have reached the higher levels of authority within Road User Division.

The above are just a few examples of the concerns which will be raised during the DTAL review process.
The urban speed limit in Darwin and many NT townships has been lowered from 60km/h to 50 km/h, effective from March 31st 2005. It affects roads in built-up areas (townships etc) which are not sign-posted with a particular limit.

The changes were originally intended to be implemented on 1st March 2004 but delayed while councils debated the matter.

WHY LOWER THE URBAN SPEED LIMIT?

  • Just over 30% of all serious crashes in the Northern Territory occurred in 60 km/h zones.
  • In 2002 there were 1,015 crashes in 60 km/h speed zones in the Northern Territory. Two of these were fatality crashes where pedestrians were killed, and in 92 crashes people were seriously injured.
  • Speed is a significant factor in the number of crashes and the severity of resulting injuries.
  • Lowering the speed from 60km/h to 50km/h reduces the stopping distance by 10 metres.
  • The lower vehicle speed and increased stopping distance will make streets safer for pedestrians, particularly children, the elderly and other vulnerable road users.
All other Australian States and the Australian Capital Territory have now introduced the lower urban speed limit. Introducing the 50 km/h urban speed limit in the Territory will mean that our road rules will remain nationally consistent and make it easier for Territory drivers when they travel interstate.

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