Worst areas for booking a driving test revealed as backlogs mount

Learner driver
Learner driver

Learner drivers across the country are having to wait nearly half a year to secure a driving test, new research has found.

According to Freedom of Information requests by the AA, there are now 66 test centres across the country where those trying to book a test are being forced to wait more than 24 weeks.

The latest figures, which are a snapshot from November last year, show the scale of delays throughout Britain’s testing sector as a result of Covid, when driving tests were completely stopped during lockdown periods. The number of tests cancelled because of the pandemic is 850,000.

The current average wait for a driving test across Britain is 15.5 weeks, while learners must wait more than seven weeks for an examination at nine out of 10 test centres.

This is far higher than the pre-pandemic national average, when wait times were six weeks.

The figures also mark a failure by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), who last May set a target of bringing the national average wait time down to nine weeks.

Long waits criticised

The AA Driving School has criticised the huge delays, saying that they are having real life consequences for people who need to drive for education and work.

Camilla Benitz, its managing director, said: “Being able to drive is also incredibly important for maintaining social connections, supporting relatives and gives you more independence in general, especially in rural areas.”

Currently, England is the worst place for driving test delays, with English learners having to wait 16.1 weeks on average to secure a test. In Wales it is 11.4 weeks, while Scottish learners have to wait 14.6 weeks on average.

Four of the top five areas with the longest waits on average were all in Scotland with 24-week waits, including East Dunbartonshire and Shetland.

In England, the areas with the longest waits are Essex at just over 23 weeks, Gloucestershire at 22.5 weeks and Somerset at 21.3 weeks. Learners in London currently have to wait just over 20.9 weeks for a test.

As part of the Government’s and DVSA’s action plan to reduce waiting times and clear the pandemic backlog, the DVSA increased weekend and public holiday testing and increased leave buy backs for testers, while also bringing back recently retired testers to conduct examinations.

However, the backlog continues to grow, with the AA data revealing that as of May 2022 the test backlog had reached more than 530,000 tests - up from the 150,000 test backlog in Aug 2020.

Loveday Ryder, chief executive of the DVSA, said that the agency has now recruited nearly 500 new examiners and plans to recruit more.

She added: “Learners should only take their driving test if they are completely ready to pass. We strongly urge learners to use our Ready to Pass? checklist and make sure they’ve had enough lessons so they can drive safely and are ready to pass their test first time.”