Northern Ireland’s Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) has announced extra driving test slots to replace appointments cancelled amid the country’s latest coronavirus lockdown. Replacement test slots have now been organised for February, March, and April 2021. Here’s what we know…
Driving test candidates who booked an appointment between 28 December 2020 and 6 February 2021 were hit by test cancellations, but did receive refunds. However, extra driving test slots have now been arranged enabling those affected by cancellations to rebook.
Driving Test Booking System Remains Closed
The DVA is currently contacting candidates whose tests were cancelled advising them that they can rebook. However, it has not yet reopened its booking system.
Amid the risk of COVID-19 infection, all driving lessons, driving tests and theory tests are currently cancelled because of Northern Ireland’s latest national lockdown, which began on 26 December.
However, practical motorcycle tests remain unaffected as learners and instructors are not considered to be in ‘close contact’.
Extra Driving Tests Needed as Backlog Grows
Amid a growing backlog, the extra driving test slots are needed to ease the strain on the system and the frustration faced by the thousands of learner drivers still waiting to take their test.
Northern Ireland has extended theory test certificate validity – unlike England – to prevent candidates having to retake a theory test.
The additional driving test slots were organised after driving instructors urged infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon to take action.
Instructors called on Mallon to explain how the driving test backlog would be dealt with once the latest lockdown is lifted.
Practical driving and theory tests in Northern Ireland have already been suspended four times as the UK deals with increasing COVID-19 infection and death rates.
Driving Test Completion Slumps
The pandemic has caused immeasurable disruption to driver testing. In Northern Ireland there has been a 60% slump in the number of driving tests completed over the past 12 months compared to the previous year, according to the Northern Ireland Approved Instructor Council.
The Council’s chairman, Gavin Sinclair, said: “Tests in 2020 were down 35,000 in comparison to 2019. Clear action is needed to deal with the current backlog. Driving tests at the minute are due to start back up on 8 February, assuming the current restrictions aren’t extended.”
However, Mr Sinclair said that even if tests do resume as planned, there will be reduced capacity because of infection control measures.
Rather than scheduling the usual seven tests per day, per examiner instructors will only be able to sit five tests a day based on COVID-19 risk assessments carried out by the DVA.
Significant Demand for Extra Driving Tests
A statement issued by the Department for Infrastructure (DfI)said that ‘it anticipates high demand for the extra driving test slots when testing is able to resume’.
The DfI said: “The DVA is working on plans to resume driving tests once the current period of lockdown restrictions ends. When the DVA is in a position to reopen the booking service for all other customers they will issue further communications.”
Booking a Driving Test Slot in Northern Ireland
If you’re a Northern Ireland based learner driver, we can book your driving test on your behalf as soon as booking services resume.
The benefit of using our service is that we can monitor the system so that you don’t have to, scheduling a driving test appointment that suits you as quickly as possible, allowing you to get on with your day.
While you wait, you can also access our free online resources to help you prepare for your test as best as you can under the current circumstances.
Try the Book Theory Test service today.
Tags: Driving Test