Source: Intelligent Instructor
AA Driving School reveals current extent of booking delays
AA Driving School is calling for more transparency in the availability of practical driving tests.
Exclusive data reveals learners faced booking delays at 88% of test centres.
Five months and counting
DVSA data accessed by AA Driving School via a Freedom of Information Request shows the true extent of the problems. Test waiting times are over five months in 66 towns and cities. In fact, the average waiting time for a practical car driving tests (November 2022) peaked at five-and-a-half-months (24 weeks).
Transport minister Richard Holden MP confirmed the five-month-long delay remains at this level in a number of areas.
These delay problems were exacerbated by the driving test suspension during the Covid-19 lockdowns. The backlogs have continued due to a lack of flexibility in the system which has prevented a catch up. In response, the DVSA has been recruiting new examiners, whilst also extending test days, including more weekend slots.
Camilla Benitz, AA Driving School Managing Director says the “delays continue to have real-life implications for thousands of people”.
For young people in particular, they often need a driving licence in order to get to education or enter employment.
Benitz ads that there are also big issues around “maintaining social connections, supporting relatives and gives you more independence in general, especially in rural areas”.
“There is no easy way for candidates to check availability at multiple test centres without checking each one manually. A better system could save many weeks of waiting as our data showed wait times varied between some local test centres by as much as three months.
“We’d like to see test centre wait time data published regularly by the DVSA to help ensure there is full accountability in getting back to pre-pandemic waiting times.”
Driving tests are not only vital for employment and education opportunities. Research by the AA Charitable Trust shows they also support independence and self-esteem for thousands of young people in care and those leaving the care system.
Live Unlimited is a charity providing a free driving lessons scheme for care leavers living in the London Borough of Barnet. Sue Cocker, is the Operations Director and says the problem is an “increasing issue”.
“We currently have six care leavers who are test ready but simply cannot find an available slot, even using multiple test cancellation apps. They are despondent, while the lucky few who’ve secured a test feel an enormous pressure to pass first time.
“Our Driving Ahead scheme is a game changer for a care experienced young person,” continues Cocker. It provides “new employment opportunities, building confidence and independence”.
The long waiting times means that the scheme is having to suspend new applications.
“We hate turning people away, but we have no choice.”
Geography of waiting
DVSA data reveals that learners hoping to book a driving test in Swansea unknowingly faced a 20 week wait. However the waiting time was halved just 12 miles up the road in Llanelli (10 weeks).
In Kent, candidates could book a test in Canterbury after waiting just two weeks. Nine miles away in Herne Bay, the waiting time is 22-weeks.
For learners near Cheetham Hill, Manchester, willing to travel seven miles to West Didsbury could save more than three months (22 weeks vs six).
Candidates looking to book in Leicester’s Cannock Street centre had a six-week wait. Just 17 miles away in Melton Mowbray, learners are waiting 15 weeks for a test slot.
Meanwhile, luckier candidates booking in Norwich’s test centres only have a two week wait fro a slot.
However, the postcode lottery means many areas do not have alternative centres close by. This is especially apparent in rural locations.
In Edinburgh, the shortest wait time was Musselburgh with a 17-week delay. Meanwhile across Glasgow’s three test centres the shortest waiting time was still more than four months (Baillieston, 20 weeks).
In a parliamentary debate earlier this month, Transport minister Richard Holden MP said waiting lists “are coming down for driving tests […] and we hope to achieve back to pre-pandemic levels within the next few months.”
Mr Holden told the Commons: “The DVSA is recovering after the pandemic […] there are 620,000 practical test appointments in the booking system.”
He later added: “The average waiting time to take a car test is at 15.1 weeks, with over 80,000 slots currently available.”
Mr Holden’s comments on 19th January show there has been little improvement in the waiting time. On 22nd November, according to the DVSA data accessed by AA Driving School, the average delay for a practical driving test stood at 15.5 weeks.
However, in the same debate the Commons was told that the average waiting time in Shetland is 18 weeks which shows a significant improvement from the 24-week average at the end of November, at Shetland’s Lerwick test centre.
Camilla Benitz from AA Driving School added: “It’s good there has been an update in Commons on some of the waiting times, but we now need to see some clear action to bring these waiting times right down.”
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