25 February 2016

Driving tests: possible future changes… and current delays

With only 21% of the 1.5 million learners who take their practical driving tests each year passing first time, the UK government announced in November 2015 that it’s considering some cunning plans, some or all of which may come into effect in the near future, marking a huge shake-up.

The main proposed change is that a learner driver may have to pay a deposit when they sit their driving test, but if they pass on the first attempt, they’ll get a cashback reward. The government hopes this change will result in fewer road accidents involving young drivers who recently passed their tests – a figure which currently stands at one fifth. Some of the driving test fee being refunded for a learner who passes first time should ensure that applicants are better prepared, more confident and generally more ready to sit their tests. It would also save learners money if they don’t have to take one or more retests.

Another tweak the government is proposing to make to UK driving tests is to open up more availability during weekends and evenings, appreciating that some young drivers struggle to take time off during the week to take their driving test. Currently, it costs £23 to take the theory test, whether it’s on a weekday, at the weekend, on an evening or even over a bank holiday. The cost of the practical driving test itself currently varies depending on when it’s taken, costing £62 on a weekday and £75 at the weekend.

Additionally, in an attempt to make learning to drive more streamlined and integrated, the government is reviewing which motoring agencies and service providers it uses, seeing whether any can be combined, along with considering whether it would benefit learners if driving tests were offered at a wider range of venues.

The consultation closed in early January and it’s unclear exactly when the government will announce what decision has been made about these potential changes to driving tests, but Carrot Insurance will keep you posted.

Carrot Insurance telematics young drivers blog - driving tests delays UK article


In the meantime, though, it seems there could be a bit of a crisis happening with driving tests in some parts of the country. Just a week after the government’s ideas were revealed in November, the PCS union announced that DVSA driving instructors would go on strike for two days in a row, over the hours they work. The strike caused disruption and heartache up and down the country, from Worcester and Northamptonshire to Lancashire and Essex.

Regardless of the strike action, learner drivers wanting to take their practical tests in some parts of the UK are having a miserable time of it. Back in November 2015, for example, the Liverpool Echo reported that Merseyside’s driving test centres were experiencing delays and backlogs of three months – a situation that had been going on for several months prior.

Fast forward to this month, February 2016, and an increasing number of similar tales are springing up around the UK. Over the last few days, the Bristol Post highlighted the case of a young woman who needed to take her driving test in order to pursue her education and career as a paramedic, only to find that after it was cancelled, she had to wait more than two months for another slot. Up in Scotland, The National newspaper reported this week that learner drivers in Aberdeen are facing delays of upto 14 weeks to sit their practical tests, Aberdeen South’s MP Callum McCaig getting involved to try and improve the situation for learners in his city.

Some say that the standard of driving instructors needs to improve and the issue of high ‘churn’ or turnover in the profession needs to be addressed to ease the backlog. “Demand for driving tests is increasing and we acknowledge that waiting times are currently higher than we would like in some areas”, admitted Phil Lloyd, Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA)’s Head of Operations. “We are working to address this as quickly as possible and have been running driving examiner recruitment campaigns throughout 2015, which have resulted in 139 new examiners starting work at test centres across Great Britain”, he added.

If you, a relative or friend have been impacted by driving examiner strikes, or delays in being able to book your practical test, join the discussion on Twitter or Facebook.

Oliver Hammond

Written by Oliver Hammond

Oliver is an established freelance motoring writer, published journalist and automotive copywriter based in Manchester. He regularly reviews cars and covers events and launches as editor of petroleumvitae.com and his articles appear in various magazines each month. No relation to Richard from Top Gear, he’s got a weakness for luxo-barges, proper 4x4s and oddball cars.