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Test centres are stuck in traffic

Covid-19 has had a special impact on learner drivers – interfering with both lessons and tests.

Following the March 2020 lockdown, driving and theory tests were stopped for a period of almost four months, only resuming in late June 2020.

Ireland is currently in its third lockdown, ongoing since January of this year. Although some restrictions are easing, the issues with both the theory and driving tests are only getting worse.

“It was quite tough, because I had 12 lessons done and I still had to wait for three months to do a test”

LEARNER DRIVER KALIN WALKER

Currently Ireland is under level 5 restrictions, under which learner drivers are not allowed to take extra lessons, unless they have 12 lessons done and are waiting for a test.

Drivers that had fewer than 12 lessons done have been told that they cannot practise with their instructor until restrictions ease. 

“It was quite tough, because I had 12 lessons done and I still had to wait for three months to do a test,” says Kailin Walker, a learner driver who was on the waiting list for more than three months before getting a test date. “When I failed the first time, I had to wait another 14 weeks to repeat, so it was quite annoying.

“The wait did allow me to practise but I just felt it was such a long wait – seven or eight weeks would have been okay.”  

In January, Road Safety Authority (RSA) chairwoman Liz O’ Donnell told the Oireachtas transport committee that “it will take time” to reduce the delays that were being experienced. She said she hoped to return to a 10-week waiting time by early 2022. 

Photo Courtesy of Johnathan Pearl

There is currently also a severe disruption with the theory tests, with many test centres having delays of up to a year.

There are 40 theory test centres in Ireland at the moment. Kilkenny, for example, has a nine-month delay, which is only being furthered by the extended level-5 lockdown.

“The seven-month wait time was just quite frustrating because it’s too distant for me to start studying. A lot of people would easily forget that they had booked it with that delay length,” says Cathal Sheehan, who applied for a theory test at Dublin’s George’s Dock centre.

“It’s difficult because I still have to do 12 driving lessons after I pass the theory test,” Sheehan says.

The RSA has recently appointed 40 new Driving testers. However, with COVID restrictions still in place, this is unlikely to have much immediate effect.

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