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Theory test certificates won’t be extended

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The government confirmed it won’t extend the validity of theory test certificates beyond the current two-year period, despite more than 100,000 expiring in the six months to September.

Last month revealed around 118,000 theory test certificates – which are valid for two years – expired in the six months to September.

This means learner drivers face forking out a collective £2.7m (£23 each) to re-sit the exam.

While drivers could continue to use their cars even if their MOT had expired and photocard driving licences that expired between 1 February and 31 December 2020 have also been extended for 11 months from the date of expiry, no such extension was granted for theory test certificates.

And now parliamentary under-secretary for the Department for Transport, Rachel Maclean, confirmed that the two-year validity period of the theory test certificate is “set in legislation” and “the government has taken the decision not to lay further legislation to extend it”.

Maclean said: “The primary reason is that the two-year validity is in place to ensure that a candidate’s theoretical knowledge and hazard perception skills are up-to-date at the critical point they drive on their own for the first time.

“Extending the validity would provide less reassurance that this is the case. Those whose certificate previously expired and have since passed the theory test will now have a further two years in which to pass the practical test.”

The answer came in response to a question from Alberto Costa, conservative MP for South Leicestershire on whether an assessment had been made of the “potential merits of extending the two-year period for passing a practical driving test from the date of a successful theory test for people waiting to take a practical driving test during the Covid-19 outbreak”.

This was because during the national lockdown earlier this year, driving lessons and tests were paused, meaning thousands of learner drivers had no option but to wait until they could take the practical exam once the sector had opened.

However, once the driving test booking service reopened, the site crashed and was taken down for maintenance due to the surge in demand.

Once it was up and running, learner drivers reported being left frustrated searching hours for an available slot while others claimed they couldn’t find one near their location for months. Again, the worry was that the theory test certificate would expire before they could take the driving test.

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