Driving lessons and tests have already been badly disrupted during the Covid-19 pandemic, with all testing and instruction suspended during the first UK-wide lockdown, and again during subsequent English lockdowns in November and since early January.
As a result thousands of learners have not been able to sit their driving test. However, following Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement of a roadmap out of lockdown, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has given an update on the testing situation across England.
Are driving tests taking place in England?
As of Tuesday, 5 January , all regular practical and theory driving tests have been suspended in England.
Previously, tests had been going ahead in all but Tier 4 areas but the "stay at home" restrictions led the DVSA to stop all testing, including practical and theory tests for car and motorbike and exams for trainee driving instructors.
The DVSA previously indicated that driving tests would not resume before 12 April but has now said that they will now restart on Thursday, 22 April, pending a review of progress in easing restrictions.
The DVSA said that it would contact any candidates whose test has been cancelled "as soon as possible". Practical tests are to be automatically rescheduled but learners will have to rebook their theory tests themeselves.
On 2 February the DVSA announced that it was introducing limited testing for emergency workers. A mobile service will offer practical and theory tests for NHS, emergency service and council staff who need to drive for work and who respond to threats to life as part of their job. Full details can be found here.
The previous two lockdowns led to a huge backlogs of tests, with hundreds of thousands of learners struggling to book new appointments after their original bookings were cancelled.
Will theory test pass certificates be extended?
As during previous lockdowns the DVSA has refused to extend the validity of theory pass certificates.
Theory passes are valid for two years but due to cancellations and problems securing new test appointments some learners have seen their certificates expire before they were able to sit the practical test.
Despite these difficulties, the DVSA has said that learners whose theory pass expires during lockdown will have to book and pass another theory test before being allowed to sit the practical driving test. It told learners: "This is because your road safety knowledge and hazard perception skills need to be up to date when you restart driving lessons and take your driving test."
As with driving tests, driving lessons are currently suspended across the country.
The DVSA has said that lessons with professional instructors will be allowed to resume 10 days before tests restart, meaning instructors and students can restart driving lessons from Monday, 12 April.
You can still practise driving with a member of your household or bubble but only as part a trip for an essential purpose such as for shopping, work or education.
Emergency workers with a confirmed test booked under the new mobile testing service are permitted to have lessons but those with a regular test date are not.
Driving test rules
To reduce the risk of spreading the Covid infection, the DVSA has introduced new rules around driving tests which will apply when they resume.
Candidates and instructors must wear a face covering unless they have a good reason not to. These reasons include a physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability that means you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering, or if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering would cause you severe distress. If you arrive for your test without a mask and do not have a valid reason for not wearing one your test will be cancelled.
Candidates should arrive at the test centre no more than five minutes before their test and should ensure that their car interior is cleaned before the examiner gets in. This includes tidying away unnecessary items and wiping down all controls and touchpoints.
Windows in the test vehicle must be kept open at all times.
Instructors are not allowed to remain in the car during the test but can listen to post-test feedback as long as social distancing is maintained.
You should not attend for your test if you or someone you live with has coronavirus symptoms or if you have been told by the track and trace service that you’ve been in contact with someone who has the virus.
If you cannot attend at short notice due to these rules, you can change your driving test appointment free of charge via the DVSA website.