Learner drivers have found it increasingly difficult to find driving tests and make their dream of independent driving a reality. Our research has found that over 50% of tests centres still have over a five month wait for driving tests. There are particular delays to driving tests in Scotland as test centres were closed longer and therefore the backlog was longer compared to other UK nations.
Over 450,000 tests were cancelled due to Covid-19 and has led to large frustrations of learner drivers. In an effort to reduce the backlog the DVLA attempted to increase the number of tests from seven to eight a day. This was a move designed to increase the testing capacity by over 5000 tests per month. However, 92% of driving instructors balloted by the public and commercial services (PCS) union rejected the proposals and voted for two days of strike action.
This move angered learner drivers who were already angry at the backlog created by the pandemic and frustrated at the inflexibility of instructors to help mitigate the consequences of the backlog. The DVLA are bringing in new measures to tackle the backlog by trying to encourage retired driving instructors back. They are also looking to reduce the length of the test in an effort to appease driving instructors that were balloted for strike action. This has raised some safety concerns from organisations who claim that the rigorous standards of the driving test should never be compromised.
The UK has one of the most difficult driving tests in the world. And although not as tough as in countries such as Japan (where a hearing, eye test, physicality test and aptitude test are all required) it is renowned as a stringent experience. Mexico is technically the easiest place to learn to drive as they don’t have any sort of driving test whatsoever. India has perhaps the easiest driving test in the world where you only need to prove that you can do three things:
– Turn Left
– Drive Straight
The UK does have over 600 tests centres and the pass rates can vary greatly. Inveraray has the highest pass rate at over 83%. As a rule of thumb, the more rural a test centre is, the easier it is to pass due to the lack of roundabouts, junctions and other obstacles. Some test centres in Liverpool and Birmingham have pass rates of less than 30% which goes to show where you live and where you take your test can really matter.
Four Tips on How to Deal with the Driving Test Backlog We have many readers who ask us for tips on how to find a driving test and we’ve compiled a list of the best methods.
The single best thing to do is try and be flexible and search for other test centres than you might normally. We just detailed above how some test centres have better pass rates than others. It’s worth looking at that list and trying to find test centres that have higher pass rates. Alternatively, if you can be really flexible, try looking at other test centres in the country to see if dates are available elsewhere. From our experience, we have seen the waiting list for some test centres be just six weeks (despite the backlog) whilst others are at six m
If you are just starting to learn to drive, make sure you get your theory test booked as soon as you can. Even theory test bookings have a relatively significant waiting time at the moment. We have had reports from people that even theory tests are taking a minimum of 2-3 months to get. Make sure you study and pass your theory test first time as you cannot book a driving test until your theory test has been completed. Once your theory test has been completed, get the DVLA practical driving test booked straight away! Even if you’re not ready for the test, you might as well get a date in the diary to work towards. If you leave it too late, you could risk having several months to wait whilst you ARE ready. What’s more, it’s free to move your practical driving test up until five working days before the test! So even if you are not ready by the time the test comes around, you can move it for free! By getting your test booked in as soon as you can, it also helps you avoid wasting £100s pounds on extra driving lessons. Even when learner drivers are ready to take their test, we have found people still take weekly driving lessons at an average cost of £28/ hour. That’s over £115 for every month of extra waiting before you get to your driving test!
Before Covid-19, it was relatively easy to find driving test cancellations and you could usually find the exact slot you wanted within 4-7 weeks of the current date. Now, the backlog is up to three months and that is only for the first slot available. The most important thing is to be flexible. The first available date might not the at the time or day you want it but it is better than waiting weeks. What’s more, as long as you have a current date booked in the system, you can then change it for free up to five working days before. There has been much debate on what the best time and day is to do your test. Some favour the tests situated within rush hour. The argument being that the traffic is often logged up and therefore you can physically drive less in the 40 minutes of the test. This should avoid more roundabouts, junctions, and traffic lights to give you a better chance of passing. The argument against this is, of course, that there is far more traffic on the road and therefore requires you to be much more alert than you would when it’s less busy. Though you should of course always be alert when you’re driving! Some people prefer driving at between 2-3pm or 10-12pm. This is when the roads are likely quietest and therefore don’t need to worry about other drivers as much as you may normally have to. It gives you the best chance of putting the success of your driving test in your own hand
We have heard reports of young drivers struggling to get jobs due to the driving test shortage. Although the DVLA originally prioritised ‘key workers’, they do not get that luxury anymore. In some parts of the country, it can be extremely difficult to get a job without the ability to drive a car. This might be because of a poor public transport network or due to requiring a car for the job. The other huge problem the driving test backlog has had on young drivers is the increase in stress in learning to drive and taking the test itself. The majority of people who take a driving test fail and this means the search for a driving test goes on and on and on. A learner driver may have waited 3 months for a test and then will have to wait a further three months to attempt it again. When you add in the backlog to book a theory test, it can end up taking up to a year to learn to drive and pass the test due to the backlogs. Learning to drive is a privilege and not a right, and every care should be taken to make sure the scrutiny of the driving test is carried out. But there is no doubt that the driving test backlog has had profound impacts on young drivers today.