'L' of a wait for learner drivers as thousands of tests cancelled across region

The pandemic has put the handbrake on driving tests, with more than 7,000 cancelled in the Black Country and Staffordshire last year.

Thousands of tests have been cancelled in the past year
Thousands of tests have been cancelled in the past year

More than 7,000 driving tests were cancelled in the Black Country and Staffordshire last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, figures reveal.

Ahead of tests starting up again from today, the AA said the disruption may have impacted learner drivers' confidence and compounded a difficult time for many young people.

Figures from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency show 7,454 driving tests were cancelled at test centres in Wolverhampton, Wednesbury, Featherstone and Stafford because of the pandemic between March and December.

A further 342 tests were cancelled for other reasons – including 132 for medical absences and 126 because the examiner took annual or special leave.

Acts of nature – adverse weather conditions and bad light – also forced the cancellation of 84 tests.

Barrie Greenhouse, co-owner of Pass4fun in Wolverhampton, said even the tests for instructors are being delayed.

He said: "It's having a big impact because it's causing a backlog.

"We're getting a lot of calls from people who have got tests booked in a couple of weeks but we're fully booked.

"It's a bit hectic at the moment, we're really inundated.

"People have waited long enough, they want to get their licence and get on the road."

Months

Learner drivers taking tests when they resume are under extra pressure to pass, as a backlog means it could be several months before they get another chance.

Those who fail their test in Britain face an average waiting time of 17 weeks to book a new slot.

The DVSA said it is offering an additional 2,500 car tests per month by utilising weekends and bank holidays.

Up to 300 new examiners are also being recruited to help reduce the backlog.

Across Great Britain, 458,000 tests could not take place because of the pandemic in 2020, though the DVSA said there are currently 420,000 booked for when testing centres reopen.

Robert Cowell, interim managing director of AA Driving School, said: "Many pupils will have either had a big break in lessons, which may impact their confidence, or have had to postpone driving lessons for many, many months.

"For young people, who have already suffered disruption to their education, not being able to learn to drive will compound an already stilted start to adult life."

He added that extending the validity period of theory test certificates – as has been the case for MOTs and driving licences – or offering a free re-sit, could help reduce demand, or at least lessen the financial impact.

Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy at the RAC Foundation, said: “Learner drivers will breathe a sigh of relief that driving lessons and tests are restarting, however the backlog for those waiting for both practical and theory tests is likely to be huge."

He also urged the DVSA to consider a short extension for those whose theory test has either expired, or is about to, but the Government has already said it will not do so.

A DVSA spokesman added: “Ensuring new drivers have current, relevant knowledge and skills to identify developing hazards is a vital part of the training for young and new drivers, who are disproportionality represented in casualty statistics."

While thousands of tests were cancelled across the region, 7,691 did take place between April and the end of December.

Of these, 3,103 were successful, giving drivers across the region a pass rate of 40 per cent – below the average across Britain of 50 per cent.

Meanwhile, DVLA figures from March show just 2.97 million people in Britain aged 16-25 hold a full licence – the smallest number since records began in November 2012.

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