Learner drivers still facing six-month waits amid test backlog

Daniel Terry, of Dan's Driving Tuition, right, with fellow instructor David Copeman.

Daniel Terry, of Dan's Driving Tuition, right, with fellow instructor David Copeman. - Credit: Dan's Driving Tuition

Learner drivers are still facing six-month waits for tests as centres catch up with a backlog which built up during the pandemic.

Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) figures show that between January 2019 and March 2020 there were 21,303 driving tests in Norfolk.

In stark contrast, there were only 8,102 practical tests between the first lockdown and June of this year, which represents a decrease of 62pc.

And students are still facing lengthy delays for tests as centres catch up with the backlog.

Daniel Terry, an instructor for the Norwich-based Dan’s Driving Tuition, says that his students are facing a six-month wait, almost double what they might usually find.

While his current students prepare for their test date, Mr Terry, who has been teaching for five years, said that he has a backlog of around 30 people who are waiting to start lessons.

The issue isn’t just with securing a test date, though. It isn’t unusual for tests to be cancelled on short notice - sometimes even as late as the day before.

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Drivers are still facing six-month waits for driving tests. - Credit: PA

Mr Terry said: “I’ve had three tests cancelled in the last week, because the examiner isn’t available.”

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One of his students was meant to have their test on November 22 but had it moved at the last minute to December 9.

Mr Terry said: “This date clashes with a different test I have booked, so my student has to find another instructor to take the test with.”

The DVSA said that with "more than half of candidates failing", learners should only take a test when they are confident they will pass. 

The pass rate for Norfolk between April 2020 and June 2021 was 56pc, which is an increase from the pre-Covid period (51pc).

DVSA said it has put measures into place to ease delays, which include asking all those qualified and recently retired examiners to conduct tests.

It is also conducting out of hours testing, including at weekends and on public holidays, and has a campaign to recruit an additional 300 examiners.

Mr Terry's advice for learners is to “take your time” and make passing the theory test a priority, as a theory pass is needed to book a practical test.

Maja Anushka.

Maja Anushka. - Credit: Maja Anushka

A new fear to deal with - analysis

If the pressure of a driving test wasn’t stressful enough, current learners have an extra fear to deal with: If we fail our test, we’ll be waiting up to six months for a second chance.

The backlog caused by Covid cancellations means that tests are extremely hard to come by.

In September, I managed to snag a January 2022 test. But I was still impatient. I want to be able to drive before Christmas.

Desperate, I downloaded one of the many apps which alerts users to any cancellations in their area - and subsequently paid the £8.99 charge to access all of the features.

Even when I jumped straight onto the app via a notification, cancelled tests were being snapped up within the blink of an eye. 

But with some diligent phone-tapping, I managed to secure a test for December 2021. 

Now I have to do my best to pass, or I’ll be shilling out another £62 for a new test (plus the cost of extra lessons to bridge the gap and keep my skills sharp) and waiting six months to try again.

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