Driving tests ‘should be an essential service’ – thousands set to have lessons cancelled

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Driving tests are vital for many road users who need to get their licence to drive for “work purposes” or to avoid using public transport. Experts have warned that there has been “huge demand” for lessons with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) “unable to cope” with the backlog in tests caused by the first lockdown.

Ian Mcintosh, CEO of RED Driving School, says a further lockdown will “worsen the strain” leading to longer delays for young drivers who need licences.

His comments come after the DVSA confirmed on social media that tests would be suspended from November 5.

The DVSA has said they will provide “further guidance” when possible and will contact those affected by the changes.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, Mr Mcintosh said: “Driving lessons should be considered an essential service and be allowed to continue throughout lockdown, as long as safety measures like mandatory face coverings are observed.

Many of our learners need their licence for work purposes because their job requires driving or because public transport doesn’t suit their work schedule or location.

“Others need to learn to drive for childcare purposes or to attend medical appointments.

“We’ve also seen a demand from learners who want to avoid public transport to minimise their exposure to the virus – something the government encouraged this summer.

“There is already huge demand for lessons following the first lockdown, and the DVSA has been unable to cope with the testing backlog.

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“The latest stoppage will only worsen the strain. Before March’s lockdown, 4,000 driving tests were held per day – meaning nearly half a million tests were cancelled or delayed during the initial lockdown period.

“Since lockdown was lifted, RED has had over 200,000 enquiries from new students, more than double what we’d normally see at this time of year and 28,500 new learners.”

Despite the decision to end tests and lessons, the DVSA has confirmed that theory tests are unaffected for the time being,

They revealed on Twitter that they would be providing a further update on other services as soon as they could, suggesting this could also face being put on pause.

Tom Hixon, Head of Instructor Support at Bill Plant Driving School, said thousands of learner drivers would be left “disappointed” by the decision.

They have urged students to stay in contact with their instructors to ensure they can rebook classes when restrictions are lifted.

He told Express.co.uk “I’m sure many thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of English learner drivers, are naturally disappointed to hear from the DVSA this afternoon that driving lessons and driving tests will be suspended between the 5th November and 2nd December.

“We ask that all learner drivers stay in touch with their instructors throughout the upcoming national lockdown until 2nd December, and we can only apologise for the inconvenience and disruption.

“But of course, it’s important that we all follow the latest government guidelines so that we can slow the spread of COVID-19 once again.

“The industry is still playing catch up from high demand after the last lockdown was lifted, this again will create requests for driving lessons from 2nd December and the New Year.

“We recommend pupils speak to their instructor to quickly reschedule lessons and for new pupils please book online at billplant.co.uk.

“This does not affect those in Wales, with lessons and tests due to recommence from Wednesday 9th November, or those in Scotland.”

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