It was a hugely significant time in all of our lives, learning to drive. In my own experience, it almost seemed like a race among the rest of my school year; who is able to pass their test first? I’m sure most people reading this have good and bad memories about learning to drive. While for me it was only 9 years ago, I can still clearly remember taking and passing my test. Sadly, though, as a byproduct of the coronavirus, there is a huge number of driving students who have been deprived of the chance to learn to drive.
Driving teachers were only allowed to resume their lesson on the 4th of July as per permission from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, which is the same date that theory tests were allowed te resume. Later, on the 22nd of July, driving tests were finally allowed to resume after 4 months of inactivity.
From April 2019 to March 2020 there were 1,599,566 practical driving tests conducted across the country. Based on those statistics, we can assume that during the 4 months of lockdown, roughly 533,188 were denied the opportunity to take a driving test. This demand hasn’t simply disappeared, and now this huge lag has created a massive demand for tests now that testing centres have reopened.
It has been reported that some students desperate to take their tests after a 4-month wait are being forced to book tests at centres miles away. One complainant reports having to travel more than 100 miles to Wrexham from Gwynedd in order to get a test at an available centre.
There have also been reports that the online test booking service has been crashing repeatedly due to the weight of users all desperately trying to book theory and practical tests. Appointments are only being released in batches. On the 7th of September, the DVSA made 30,000 tests available however over 150,000 people were still queuing for the final 4,000 slots by midday. The system was closed by 2 pm as there were no slots left.
As of next week, the DVSA will be releasing a further 375,000 test slots which will cover from October until the end of January 2021. It’s important to remember that due to COVID compliancy, the testing capacity of each centre will be significantly reduced.
Sadly this does mean that those young learners are going to have to wait a little bit longer before they can feel the freedom of the roads that we all fondly remember after passing our tests. Nonetheless it’s encouraging to see how keen the next generation of drivers is to get behind the wheel.