top of page

What's going on with Driving Test Waiting Times?

Hydebank Driving Test Centre
Driving Test Waiting Times in Northern Ireland

At the minute there is anywhere from a 4 to 5 month wait for a driving test date in the Greater Belfast area. This timeline can be shorter if you are prepared to work and search for a cancellation of make an attempt at a test at a Driving Test Centre outside the Capital with places like Altnagelvin, Omagh or Dungannon having waiting times that are much shorter.


But why and how has this happened and is there a solution to the problem?


What I am about to write is only my own opinion but it is one that will point out some pretty clear issues with the way the booking system currently operates and will also discuss some things the DVA have proposed to put in place to, not necessarily to solve the issue but proposals that will have an impact on learners, instructors and examiners alike.


The most prolific problem we have is the ability of anyone who passes their Theory and Hazard Perception test to immediately book a Practical Driving Test without having an instructor in place or having even taken a lesson. This issue, in my opinion, is exacerbated by a number of International licence holders who feel that because they have driven in their home country for 'X' number of years, that passing a test is easy because they already know how to drive. The is a huge gap in understanding in this area and how the Driving Test in Northern Ireland is not just a test of an individuals ability to drive. It is about the SAFE STANDARD at which you drive.


There are other issues too. Since the Covid Pandemic was officially scaled down and was normalised, the number of people trying to pass a driving test increased. Consider how many people were ready to do their test as everything closed down, how many people where undergoing training, how many people didn't get to start training during that 17 months of lockdown and add to that the number of new learners in a position to start learning after July 2021 and the number is potentially vast. As Driving Instructors we were not permitted to work at all during that period with the exception of a 6-8 week window between September to November 2020. From memory I think the number of people wanting to take a Driving Test and easing of Covid restrictions was reported as somewhere in the region of 35,000. with numbers like that it is pretty easy to understand the fact that there is a delay.


These are just 2 points that have had an impact on Driver Testing since that July 2021 restart.


We have had some suggestion made by the Minister for Infrastructure of changes to the system to help the sector. A mandatory minimum of 6 months of tuition, a corresponding learners logbook and a 2 year 'Restricted' Driver period have been suggested. Although I do see the merits of these suggestions I do not see how the will be effective. As Driving Instructors we all had learners with, what I would call, natural ability behind the wheel and can pass a test in relatively few lessons. We have all also had others who can take much longer than that suggested 6 months.


My own thoughts are that we should introduce a scheme where your Driving Instructor has sign-off on when the learner is fit and able to take a Driving Test and pass. My feeling is that this would stop the booking of tests by those that are totally unprepared and greatly reduce the waiting times for the tests themselves. At the same time this would ensure that International Drivers on their 1 year exemption would be positioned to take proper training in the safe driving standards for the roads of Northern Ireland. Inadvertently, this would also solve another issue that disturbs me a great deal where an International Driver on that 1 year exemption to drive can take a Driving Test, Fail, and continue to drive on Northern Irelands roads even when it has been proven that they are unsafe and not fit to do so. This area alone needs addressed as it has a significant link to road safety. Anecdotally we all have heard stories where there are significant numbers of International Licence holders driving on 'fake' licences making a mockery of the idea of safe driving standards being a driving force behind the suggestions made to improve things moving forwards.

At the minute there is anywhere from a 4 to 5 month wait for a driving test date in the Greater Belfast area. This timeline can be shorter if you are prepared to work and search for a cancellation of make an attempt at a test at a Driving Test Centre outside the City with places like Altnagelvin, Omagh or Dungannon having waiting times that are much shorter and with the opening of Hydebank and some new Examiners there has been an improvement in this on a scale.


But why and how has this happened and is there a solution to the problem?


What I am about to write is only my own opinion but it is one that will point out some pretty clear issues with the way the booking system currently operates and will also discuss some things the DVA have proposed to put in place to, not necessarily to solve the issue but proposals that will have an impact on learners, instructors and examiners alike.


The most prolific problem we have is the ability of anyone who passes their Theory and Hazard Perception test to immediately book a Practical Driving Test without having an instructor in place or having even taken a lesson. This issue, in my opinion, is exacerbated by a number of International licence holders who feel that because they have driven in their home country for 'X' number of years, that passing a test is easy because they already know how to drive. The is a huge gap in understanding in this area and how the Driving Test in Northern Ireland is not just a test of an individuals ability to drive. It is about the SAFE STANDARD at which you drive.


There are other issues too. Since the Covid Pandemic was officially scaled down and was normalised, the number of people trying to pass a driving test increased. Consider how many people were ready to do their test as everything closed down, how many people where undergoing training, how many people didn't get to start training during that 17 months of lockdown and add to that the number of new learners in a position to start learning after July 2021 and the number is potentially vast. As Driving Instructors we were not permitted to work at all during that period with the exception of a 6-8 week window between September to November 2020. From memory I think the number of people wanting to take a Driving Test and easing of Covid restrictions was reported as somewhere in the region of 35,000. with numbers like that it is pretty easy to understand the fact that there is a delay.


These are just 2 points that have had an impact on Driver Testing since that July 2021 restart.


We have had some suggestion made by the Minister for Infrastructure of changes to the system to help the sector. A mandatory minimum of 6 months of tuition, a corresponding learners logbook and a 2 year 'Restricted' Driver period have been suggested. Although I do see the merits of these suggestions I do not see how the will be effective. As Driving Instructors we all had learners with, what I would call, natural ability behind the wheel and can pass a test in relatively few lessons. We have all also had others who can take much longer than that suggested 6 months.


My own thoughts are that we should introduce a scheme where your Driving Instructor has sign-off on when the learner is fit and able to take a Driving Test and pass. My feeling is that this would stop the booking of tests by those that are totally unprepared and greatly reduce the waiting times for the tests themselves. At the same time this would ensure that International Drivers on their 1 year exemption would be positioned to take proper training in the safe driving standards for the roads of Northern Ireland. Inadvertently, this would also solve another issue that disturbs me a great deal where an International Driver on that 1 year exemption to drive can take a Driving Test, Fail, and continue to drive on Northern Irelands roads even when it has been proven that they are unsafe and not fit to do so. This area alone needs addressed as it has a significant link to road safety. Anecdotally we all have heard stories where there are significant numbers of International Licence holders driving on 'fake' licences making a mockery of the idea of safe driving standards being a driving force behind the suggestions made to improve things moving forwards.


The question is where do we go from here?


I could certainly continue to with a list of talking points on this subject but I think this post has got far too long already. Lol.


21 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page