High Demand for Driving Tests Lengthens Wait
Lucy started learning to drive last summer and is now ready to take her driving test – but like hundreds of thousands of other people, she cannot get one.
“I did my theory last year and want to get the practical out the way but no matter how hard I try, getting a slot is difficult,” the 19-year-old from London says.
And she’s not alone.
New figures from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) show there are more than 500,000 learners waiting for their driving tests.
In May 2021, there was a backlog of 496,124, but this has risen to 506,431 in June – an increase of 10,307.
DVSA chief executive Gareth Llewellyn says the organisation is doing “everything we can” to increase capacity and reduce waiting times.
“We have introduced several measures to help, including opening a new test centre in Leeds, recruiting over 3,000 extra driving examiners and extending our testing hours,” he says.
But with demand still outstripping supply, what does this mean for those trying to get their licence?
‘It’s very frustrating.
Zak wants to take his test so he can travel to work.
Zak Gittins is one of the many people left frustrated by the situation. The 22-year-old from Birmingham has been trying to book a test since February.
“I’ve been looking as far ahead as January, but there’s nothing available,” he says. “It’s very frustrating.”
Zak, originally from Wales, moved to the Midlands for work last year. He has been using public transport but says this is not always practical.
“I need to be able to drive for work,” he says. “There are jobs I can’t do because I can’t get there.”
He has looked at taking his test in Wales, but the earliest date he could find was November – and even that has now gone.
‘I’m losing hope
For some people, the wait has been even longer.
Kian Breckin tried to book a test in February; the earliest date he could find was September. Since then, that date has gone back twice and is now November.
“I’m just trying to be patient, but it’s getting harder,” the 18-year-old from Nottingham says.
“I’m losing hope.”
Kian says he understands the backlog but thinks the situation could have been handled better.
“They should have put measures in place sooner,” he says. “They knew there would be a demand.”
Kian Breckin has been waiting since February for a driving test slot.
He has looked at taking his test in other parts of the country, but the earliest dates he could find were all in November.
“I’m just going to have to wait,” he says.
‘I understand the situation.
Lucy, Zak and Kian are all members of a Facebook group set up for people in the same situation. It has more than 22,000 members.
People share their stories and offer each other advice on how to try to get a test. Some have even been successful in finding slots – although they are often many months away.
The group’s administrators say they understand why there is a backlog but believe the DVSA could do more to help those affected.
“We appreciate that it is a difficult time for the driving test service with Covid,” they say.
“However, we do not believe that learners should have to wait up to a year for their driving test.”
They are calling on the DVSA to introduce a system where people can cancel their tests and get a refund if they no longer need the slot.
At the moment, if someone cancels their test, they have to wait at least ten working days before they can book another one. This means many people are unable to take advantage of last-minute cancellations.
The administrators also want the DVSA to look at ways to increase capacity, such as setting up more temporary test centres and training more driving examiners.
‘I’m not giving up
For those still waiting, the best advice seems to be to keep trying.
Kian says he checks the website daily and has even set up a Google alert so he will be notified as soon as any new dates are released.
“I’m not giving up,” he says. “I’ll keep trying until I get a date.”
Zak has been doing the same and hopes his persistence will pay off.
“I know it’s going to happen eventually,” he says. “I just don’t know when.”
What do you think? Do you believe the DVSA could do more to help those affected by the driving test backlog? Share your views in the comments below.
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