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Why you might have to wait five months for a driving test

Written by: Emma Lunn
Practical driving test bookings are delayed at nine in 10 test centres in the UK, according to research by the AA.

A study by the motoring organisation found that learner drivers face booking delays at the vast majority of driving test centres.

The AA found that in 66 towns and cities across the UK, learner drivers face a wait of more than five months to book a test. More than 88% of test centres have waiting times of over seven weeks.

The data analysed by AA Driving School was obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

It found that many of the delays can be attributed to Covid, which resulted in driving tests being suspended across the UK. This created a backlog of practical tests, leaving centres struggling to meet demand.

The AA’s investigation also found that the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) system for booking a test has led to regional differences in how long learners have to wait for their test.

For example, a driver booking a practical test in Swansea would need to wait 20 weeks, but the wait is half that – 10 weeks – in Llanelli. Learners can get a test in Canterbury in two weeks’ time – but nearby Herne Bay has a nine-week wait.

Camilla Benitz, managing director of the AA Driving School, said: “There is no easy way for candidates to check availability at multiple test centres without checking each one manually. A better system could save many weeks of waiting, as our data showed wait times varied between some local test centres by as much as three months.

“We’d like to see test centre wait-time data published regularly by the DVSA to help ensure there is full accountability in getting back to pre-pandemic waiting times.”

Waiting time drives up costs

Before the pandemic, learner drivers typically waited six weeks for a driving test. Research by insurer Marmalade last year found that increased waiting times are upping costs for learner drivers who need extra lessons and extra insurance before they take their test.

Sue Cocker, operations director at charity Live Unlimited, said: “Finding available driving tests has become an increasing issue for us since Covid. We currently have six care leavers who are test ready but simply cannot find an available slot, even using multiple test cancellation apps. They are despondent, while the lucky few who’ve secured a test feel an enormous pressure to pass first time.

“Our Driving Ahead scheme is a game changer for a care experienced young person, providing new employment opportunities, building confidence and independence. Yet such are the difficulties in finding driving test slots, we are currently suspending new applications onto the scheme. We hate turning people away, but we have no choice.”

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