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'huge impact' Drivers' frustration at test backlog as more than 2,500 cancelled this year

The majority were called off due to the weather.


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MORE than 2,500 driving tests have been cancelled since the start of the year, with the majority being called off due to the weather.

Only essential workers are permitted to sit their driving test under Level 5 restrictions, but pressure is mounting on the Road Safety Authority (RSA) to deal with the backlog caused by the pandemic.

Figures released to the Sunday World show 2,578 tests were cancelled including 2,158 due to "adverse conditions", while 420 didn't go ahead due to people displaying Covid-19 symptoms.

"The most frequent cancellation reason to date in 2021 is weather-related cancellations," an RSA spokesperson said.

"This is where either the RSA cancelled or where the customer couldn't travel due to adverse conditions."

The RSA has advised testers that the two windows in the front of the vehicle need to remain partly open to allow for ventilation during driving to reduce risk.

This has led to some tests being cancelled on cold days.

There are 95,178 people on the waiting list - including 32,441 who still need to complete their mandatory lessons.

The RSA said a further 5,685 are scheduled to sit their test in the coming weeks.

Learner drivers who are essential workers cannot complete their mandatory 12 lessons if they do not have a driving test booked, but they also cannot book a driving test without completing the lessons.

Sinn Féin TD Darren O'Rourke said it is a "catch-22 that is causing serious issues" for those who need to sit their driving test for work.

"It means only those who have completed all 12 EDT lessons, prior to Level 5, can now sit their test," he said.

"Obviously we need to ensure driving testers and approved driving instructors are protected during the ongoing pandemic, but we also need to ensure essential workers can get to work."

Learner driver Althea Greybe said not being able to sit the test is having a "huge impact" on her family.

Ms Greybe is originally from South Africa and moved to Athenry, Co Galway, in 2018.

Her husband Troy is a frontline worker, providing home care to elderly people. They have four children, two of whom have special needs.

Her husband has to take time off work to bring the children to therapy sessions in Galway city as there is a lack of public transport where they live.

"We literally live in the sticks so it's had a huge impact as I cannot drive unaccompanied as a learner driver," she said.

"It's incredibly frustrating, especially when I have 18 years' experience driving in South Africa."

A significant demand is expected for driving tests when Level 5 restrictions are lifted, which will further add to the backlog of examinations.

More than 50,000 people are waiting for their driver theory test too. The test has not been classified as an essential service by the Government and consequently it has been suspended during lockdown.

The RSA is examining ways to do 50,000 tests a month and is currently running a pilot exercise to trial an online system that could be used.

One 18-year-old Leaving Cert student fears he will not be able to get a summer job if he cannot sit the test in time.

"I can't plan anything now as I can't sit a theory test, take lessons or sit the driving test to get the licence I will need to get to work," he said.

"I'm worried about the delays even when they open as I'll also need a car to commute to college from September but I'm not even sure if I'll be able to get a test before then."

The RSA has written to the Department of Transport seeking 40 additional testers to address the current wait time of 20 weeks.

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