One of the country’s biggest driving schools has urged the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to accelerate the resumption of driving lessons to ensure learners are prepared for their tests.
Driving tests are expected to resume from 12 April in England and are likely to restart from 26 April in Scotland but Ian McIntosh, CEO of RED Driving School said that any learners with tests immediately after the resumption could be left at a disadvantage.
He wants the DVSA to allow lessons to resume a week ahead of practical tests in order to give candidates time to prepare. That would mean lessons restarting on 5 April for learners in England and potentially on 19 April for learners in Scotland.
He said: “We are eager to get our instructors back on the roads and to support the next generation of drivers to become road ready, however we empathise with the government and understand the reasons behind such a vigilant approach to the restart of our industry.
“The absolute priority should be to restart driving lessons before practical testing. Most learner drivers won’t have sat behind the wheel of a car since the beginning of January, so it’s vital they are given the opportunity to prepare fairly in advance. Anyone in England with a test which has been rebooked for 12 April should be allowed to resume lessons a week beforehand. A similar allowance should be made for learners in Scotland when testing resumes there.”
The DVSA has sid tests will resume "no earlier" than 12 April in England and has not given a firm date for tests to restart in Scotland but said that they will resume on a regional level once an area moves out of level 4 restrictions. Most areas are expected to move to level 3 on 26 April, opening the door for practical tests to resume.
The agnecy has also said that it is working with the authorities in England, Wales and Scotland to establish when lessons can resume but has yet to issue any official guidelines.
Mr McIntosh also questioned the DVSA’s refusal to extend theory test pass certificates.
He said: “Driving test passes are being stilted by the DVSA’s refusal to extend theory test certificates, which is a huge injustice to learner drivers who have been unable to take their practical tests due to the pandemic. We believe all students who passed their theory tests in April 2018 onwards should be allowed to take a practical test when the test centres re-open and the normal two year expiry date should be extended.”
In a statement, the DVSA said: “The government has further considered the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the validity period of theory test certificates.
“After careful consideration and in response to a recent petition the government has decided not to extend theory test certificates for road safety reasons.
“We understand this will be disappointing for some of your pupils, but it’s essential that they have the most up-to-date road safety knowledge and hazard perception skills at the critical point that they drive on their own for the first time.”