Calls for DVSA to allow more weekend driving tests to tackle backlog

Driving instructors have urged the body responsible for driving tests in Britain to extend testing throughout weekends to help tackle the massive backlog caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

As testing resumes in England following a second lockdown, one of Britain’s largest driving schools has urged the DVSA to use “whichever means possible” to speed up the testing process, including making more tests available on weekends.

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Practical driving tests have been particularly badly disrupted during 2020 due to the nationwide lockdown, continuing restrictions on travel and social distancing and problems with the DVSA booking site.

Hundreds of thousands of tests were cancelled during the first lockdown, leading to a massive backlog of tests when examinations resumed. This has been made worse again by England’s recent lockdown and the introduction of tiered restrictions in Scotland and England, which have seen more tests postponed or cancelled. Interest in driving lesson has also soared as people look for ways to avoid public transport.

Driving tests have been seriously disrupted this year (Photo: Shuttestock)

Currently weekend driving tests slots are very limited and not available at every test centre but Ian McIntosh of Red Driving School has said efforts should be made to significantly increase the availability of weekend appointments.

He said: “Unfortunately, the pandemic has created a backlog of tests – nobody is to blame for this but we’d like to see the DVSA implementing whichever means possible to ensure the backlog is tackled efficiently.

“There has already been a huge demand for lessons following the first lockdown, and the DVSA has been unable to cope with the testing backlog. The demand from learners has never been greater. Many of our learners need their licence because their job requires driving or because public transport doesn’t suit their work schedule or location. Others need to learn to drive for childcare purposes or to attend medical appointments.

“The DVSA should consider what’s now required to increase testing capacity to help get Britain moving again. We applaud the moves suggested in Northern Ireland to carry out testing on both Saturday and Sunday, and believe a similar approach should be adopted in England, Scotland and Wales."

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Tom Hixon, head of instructor support at Bill Plant Driving School, echoed Mr McIntosh’s views but warned that examiners must not be put under too much pressure.

He said: ““We would definitely welcome the possibility of the DVSA adding further driving test availability to deal with the backlog that lockdowns have caused. With that being said, we need to make sure that an increase in tests doesn’t result in the examiners having insufficient rest and break between tests – a devalue in the high standard of driving tests will not do anyone any good.

"We know that there are many upset and frustrated learner drivers who have been made to wait for their driving test, some more than once, but it’s important to remember that the process of learning to drive is much more than merely passing a test, it is understanding vital driving skills to ensure you and other road users return home safe every time that you go out in your car."

The DVSA said it was working to find ways to increase testing, including adding extra appointments and bringing in more qualified examiners.

A spokesperson said : “Demand for driving tests is high as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and national restrictions.

“We are working hard to ensure as many candidates as possible can safely take their driving test; our examiners are carrying out more tests per day where it is safe to do so, we are offering more tests at weekends and we’re ensuring staff who are qualified are conducting driving tests, such as desk-based staff and managers.”