The DVSA has been urged to extend the validity of driving theory test pass certificates for learners.
A senior driving instructor has said that thousands of student drivers are facing “a huge injustice” as the latest lockdown restrictions mean they risk their pass mark expiring before they are able to sit a practical driving test.
Ian McIntosh, CEO of RED Driving School, also warned that the DVSA was creating more problems for itself by adding to the backlog of candidates waiting to sit their driving test.
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Insurance firm Marmalade has also launched a petition calling for the test validity to be extended after research suggested learners have wasted a collective £1.1 million on expired theory tests since the first lockdown in March 2020.
Drivers must have a valid theory test pass certificate in order to sit a practical driving test. However, the theory certificate only remains valid for two years.
Some learners are having to resit their theory tests due to the delays in testing caused by the Covid outbreak (Photo: Shutterstock)
The latest lockdown has led to the suspension of all testing - theory and practical - across the UK. Around 400,000 practical tests were put on hold across the country during the first nationwide lockdown and more were delayed in England during November’s second lockdown.
As a result, many learners have missed their original practical test date and have seen their theory certificates expire before they were able to secure a new appointment.
Freedom of Information requests by Marmalade have found that 49,543 theory certificates expired during the two lockdowns and another 14,000 could expire before the end of the current one.
Mr McIntosh said: “The government’s refusal to extend learners’ theory test pass certificates is a huge injustice to learners unable to take practical tests due to the pandemic.
“The theory test certificate is currently valid for two years. 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.
“The theory test is expensive and difficult to pass, and learners cannot book a practical test without a valid theory test pass certificate, meaning thousands of learners will have to wait even longer to obtain their driving licences.
“The resits will put huge pressure on the DVSA when they reopen theory test centres as there will be a huge backlog of existing learners, as well as new learners who turned 17 and are looking to avoid public transport.
“Extending the theory test pass certificates would not pose a threat to road safety as the retained theory knowledge of “COVID test passers” will still surpass that of the average UK driver.”
The DVSA previously said it would not extend the theory test certificate, aruging that drivers' "road safety knowledge and hazard perception skills need to be up to date when you restart driving lessons and take your driving test".
Crispin Moger, CEO of Marmalade, said the DVSA should follow the example of Northern Ireland's DVA, which has extended theory test passes by 12 months.
He commented: "There will have been many learner drivers who planned to take their test during the periods affected by the multiple lockdowns and will now have lost through no fault of their own. Learners whose certificates have expired will need to pass the test again before they can take their practical driving test, adding yet more time to their wait, and to the backlog we are already expected to see in 2021.
“We have previously launched a petition to ask the Government to extend these certificates by three months to allow learners the chance to qualify as drivers as soon as it’s possible, something which will also ease waiting times and pressure on theory test centres once they reopen. Northern Ireland has announced an extension, while the UK Government has said they will not be extending the period, something which will have certainly come as a blow to learners.”