Frustrated learner drivers are finding they have to wait months on end to book a driving test after a surge in demand when lockdown restrictions lifted.
One reader, John, got in touch to say his daughter was unable to book a driving test at all, despite extending the search to within a 30 mile radius and over six centres.
He is concerned not only of the pressure she is facing but also the difficulty finding and commuting to work as they live far from public transport options.
Many learner drivers have revealed their frustration at the currently long wait for driving tests
He said: ‘Today my daughter failed her test and we are desperately trying to rebook to get her on track.
‘But the Government website shows absolutely no appointments available in Grimsby, Louth Lincoln, Boston, Skegness and so on.
‘I do not know what to do for her, this is so frustrating and will have direct impact on her job searches. This is a right royal mess with no government support for the centres to work through the backlog.’
While the national average waiting time for a driving test is under 13 weeks, when it was at 17 weeks earlier this year, many have reported they are unable to book a test at all.
This has been stressful for many learners who now do not know when they might expect to pass their test as well as the extra nerves that come alongside the long wait – there is more at stake when you know it could be months until another test comes up.
For others, like John’s daughter, not being able to drive could hinder their job opportunities and future prospects.
Further confusion has arisen for learners who believed they are unable to still book a test in 2022 as the system shows the slots as ‘unavailable’.
However, the DVLA confirmed these are showing as such because they are not yet available to book rather than being fully booked already.
The test booking system only offers tests up to 24 weeks in advance – currently up to mid October – and new tests are added every week. This means those looking to book further ahead than October will not be able to.
Both car driving tests and lessons were suspended for months due to the pandemic until mid-April when thousands sought to book their exams after a long wait.
Demand is so high that there are currently 463,129 practical car tests booked in, according to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).
As such, it said it expects to offer an additional 2,500 car tests per month across the country by utilising weekends and Bank Holidays.
It added this will increase as coronavirus restrictions lift whilst it is also recruiting new examiners to help reduce the backlog of driving tests caused by the pandemic.
So far, it has received over 5,000 applications and plans to recruit up to 300 people.
However, for now, the backlog is still huge with many concerned they are unable to book a test in.
Many have taken to social media to express their frustration.
One user believes they weren’t able to book in 2022 despite the slots not yet being free
Another user said they weren’t able to book a date in 2022 as they say ‘unavailable’
This Twitter user shared their frustration at the lack of available dates online
One learner driver said trying to book a test ‘is like trying to find a needle in a haystack’
This user said his son was unable to book a test after having 3 cancelled due to the coronavirus
One of the main problems for those having to wait is the likelihood they will have to resit their theory test as the pass only lasts for two years.
There were calls for the Government to extend the theory test certificates but it declined to do so ‘to ensure learners safety’ meaning they will need to pass another test if their certificate expires.
The DVSA said that, for many, since passing their theory test, their more recent lessons and practice sessions will have been significantly curtailed during recent lockdowns and it is likely their skills base will have diminished.
It added research shows this would be particularly harmful for hazard perception skills as candidates who score well in this area of the theory test are less likely to be involved in an accident as a new driver.
In the four months from October 2020 to January 2021, 58,500 theory tests expired without passing a practical test, highlighting the number of people who will have to cough up again.
For the same period in 2019, some 53,000 theory tests expired.
Loveday Ryder, DVSA chief executive, said: ‘I know learners will be keen to take their test now, but it is important that candidates are properly prepared and don’t rush to take it.
‘With more than half of candidates failing, and demand currently extremely high for tests, learners should only take their test only when they are confident they can pass.
‘This will help them to avoid a lengthy wait for a retest and help us by not adding to the backlog of tests.
‘We are doing all we can to provide as many tests as possible so we can get our services back to normal.’
If a candidate fails their practical driving test and wants to resit it they have to choose a date at least 10 working days away.
Currently, those taking a test must now wear a face covering for the duration.
Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.