For some learner drivers the wait for a test is over as they resume in parts of the UK – but many have spoken about the difficulties in securing a test date.
Tests have been suspended due to Covid restrictions since January, but restart in England and Wales on Thursday.
Most centres are currently booked up until August, with a backlog of around 420,000 tests because of the pandemic.
Charlotte Dalton, 24 – who has had a test cancelled during every lockdown – says test slots were “like gold dust”.
The mother-of-two said she has spent the last few months “logging on every day, every hour” to try to secure one.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) said it was doing “all we can to provide as many tests as possible to help clear the backlog as quickly as we can”.
Charlotte, from rural Buxton, decided to learn to drive in July 2019 after her boyfriend had a seizure behind the wheel and could no longer drive.
Her test was originally scheduled for April last year – but the first lockdown meant it had to be rearranged multiple times, before she eventually had her first test in September.
“I was so stressed and anxious about the possibility of failing, I failed because I worked myself up so much about it,” she said.
After another cancellation in October – because the examiner had to self-isolate – her next two test dates were curtailed by England’s second and third lockdowns.
“Whilst I respect why the decision was made to suspend tests, it’s also infuriating – how many times do I have to have tests cancelled?” she said.
She was then given an August date, but through persistence, she has gradually managed to secure earlier bookings, bringing it forward to 8 May.
“I’m relieved that it’s so soon, but I’m panicking because if I fail again the next tests are September. It’s a lot of pressure – I’d be absolutely devastated if I failed again.”
Those who fail their test in Britain face an average waiting time of 17 weeks to book a new slot. Before the pandemic, the average waiting time was seven weeks.
Charlotte, who has an 11-week-old daughter, says she has spent thousands of pounds on lessons over the past two years and almost £2,000 in car insurance for her own car.
“As a family, me getting my driving licence means we can finally have the freedom and the independence we desire – so to some people it might seem small – but to us my driving licence is essential to the future of our family.”
‘Booked until September’
Another driver to be affected by the pandemic was Jasmin Dhaliwal, from London, who saw her January test cancelled and rescheduled for 21 April – which turned out to be the day before tests were able to resume.
She was then automatically allocated a date in August – eight-and-a-half months after her original date.
She says she was “lucky” in that she was able to find a cancellation date sooner, with the help of an app, but says her local area is booked up until September now.
Driving tests will also restart in Northern Ireland on Friday, while in Scotland it will be 6 May at the earliest.
The DVSA said it was offering an additional 2,500 car tests per month by using weekends and bank holidays.
It said it was regularly adding new appointments to the booking system and recruiting extra driving examiners across the country to deliver more tests over the coming months.
DVSA chief driving examiner Mark Winn urged learners to only take their driving test “if they are completely ready to pass”.
“We know many learners have waited a long time to take their driving test, so when tests restart in England and Wales on 22 April, we want them to be ready and to pass first time.”