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As Windsor driving students chase higher pass rates in Chatham, safety advocates call for more 'balanced' testing

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For students nervous about passing their G or G2 driving test in Windsor, it's not uncommon for them to head an hour up the road to Chatham to take their test there.

But after recent data ranked Windsor as the eighth most-dangerous city for driving, some argue that taking a road test in a less-congested area solely for the purpose of passing can have potential long-term safety implications.

Data obtained by CTV News shows the passing rate for a G test at the Windsor DriveTest centre is 69 per cent. For the G2 exam, it's 59 per cent.

In Chatham, the numbers are much higher — with 80 per cent of students passing their G road test and 73 per cent passing their G2 exam.

But, according to iDrive Windsor driving school owner Jacob Hammoud, many people doing their road test at the Chatham-Kent DriveTest centre do not actually drive through the region day-to-day.

"They're from Windsor and surrounding areas. I know of people coming down from Sarnia to Chatham because of how easy the road test is in Chatham to pass," said Hammoud.

Last week, insurance comparison site MyChoice released new data showing where the worst drivers in Ontario can be found.

Taking the eighth spot was Windsor where about 10 per cent of drivers have an infraction on their record, according to the site.

One example of why students consider Chatham as the place to go for an easier road test, Hammoud explained, is the difference in the number of asks on the exam.

"You could have four or more traffic lights that you're either going through or you're turning on with either of the two road test routes that we have in Windsor," said Hammoud.

"In Chatham, there's only one traffic light. Many of the times you're only turning right on it — and if you're turning left, it's an advanced green."

That alone, he said, can result in students not having to demonstrate their knowledge of the "point of no return" which refers to the point when it becomes unsafe to stop abruptly when proceeding through an intersection.

He also points to differences in test duration. According to Hammoud, the Windsor road test can be around four to six minutes longer than a road test in Chatham.

"The wait time in Chatham might be smaller than the wait time in Windsor. That's one reason why they go there. But the majority of them are going because it's easier," said Hammoud.

Brian Patterson, president of the Ontario Safety League, said advocates have long been calling for students to take their road test in the city where they will primarily drive.

"Anybody who lives in university towns like Windsor, Toronto, London or Kingston knows there's people from across the country who arrive," Patterson said, pointing to increased traffic volumes not seen in regions like Chatham-Kent.

"Better effort has to be made to balance the testing and all of the locations."

For Patterson, test routes — particularly those in less-congested regions with higher passing rates — should be reviewed so they better reflect conditions in in busier cities.

"So you might have to drive for a little bit longer in one area or you may have to do a specific maneuver two or three times," Patterson added.

Rather than trying to find a DriveTest centre that may be deemed as "easier" because of lower traffic, Patterson recommends people find the right driving school so they are equipped to handle any situation on the road.

"As a parent, I'm not sure I'd want my kid to pass in an environment that was less safe. I don't think parents want it. I don't think the public wants it," said Patterson, adding he had a constructive meeting with Ontario's transportation minister on Dec. 3.

"Good things are going to change because the ministry is listening to stakeholders. At the end of the day, nobody wants the roads of Ontario to be less safe than they could be, just for some bureaucratic issue."

Patterson did not get into specifics regarding what those changes would look like.

CTV News reached out to the Ministry of Transportation but did not hear by publication time. 

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