Driving Tests: Scotland

Department for Transport written question – answered at on 24 June 2021.

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Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment he has made of theory driving test availability in (a) Ayrshire and (b) Central Scotland; what steps he is taking to provide additional theory test facilities; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment he has made of the backlog in practical driving test availability in (a) Ayrshire and (b) Central Scotland; and what steps he is taking to clear that backlog.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of extending the expiration dates of theory driving tests in response to the backlog of practical driving test applications, to minimise risks of learners requiring to take a further theory test creating additional backlogs.

Photo of Rachel Maclean Rachel Maclean Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is aware that demand for theory tests in Scotland is currently high and it is doing all it can to offer more tests at centres by increasing opening hours and running tests on extra days where possible. The provision of additional testing is dependent upon the availability of venues and agreements with landlords. The DVSA is working with its theory test provider, Pearson VUE, to explore further ways in which it can further increase theory test capacity.

The DVSA is continuing to work with the Scottish Government but as a result of the 2 metre physical distancing restrictions in Scotland, as required by the Scottish Government, it is unable to increase the number of desks used to take tests. This has reduced capacity at most theory test sites by 50%.

The DVSA and its theory test contract provider, Pearson VUE, have explored the possibility of delivering the theory tests outside of existing sites, but this was found to be not suitable as it is dependent upon a physical infrastructure within the Pearson VUE network.

As of 18 June, the waiting time for a car theory test in Ayrshire and Central Scotland is 11 weeks.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) understands the effect that the pandemic has had on all those involved with driver training and testing. It is inevitable the demand for existing and new learners wanting to book practical driving tests will be higher than usual.

The DVSA has put in place a number of measures to increase practical driving tests. These include offering overtime and annual leave buy back to examiners, asking all those qualified to conduct tests, but who do not do so as part of their current day job, to return to conducting tests, and conducting out of hours testing (such as on public holidays). The DVSA is also running a recruitment campaign to increase the overall number of examiners. The aim is to increase testing capacity and reduce the backlog as quickly as possible, whilst maintaining a COVID-secure service for customers and examiners.

As of 18 June, the waiting time for a car practical test in Ayrshire is: 4 weeks at Ayr and 18 weeks at Irvine, and in Central Scotland is: 14 weeks at Livingston and 13 weeks at Stirling.

The maximum duration of two years between passing the theory test and a subsequent practical test is in place to ensure a candidate’s road safety knowledge and ability to identify developing hazards is current. This validity period is set in legislation and the Government has no current plans to lay further legislation to extend it.

It is important road safety knowledge and hazard perception skills are up to date at the critical point a person drives unsupervised for the first time. Those with theory test certificates expiring now will have taken their test in early 2019. Since then, they have been unable to take lessons and practice for long periods of time, and not at all during recent lockdowns. It is difficult to maintain knowledge and understanding of driving theory at the level required during that time without being able to put it into practice. Research suggests that this would be particularly harmful for hazard perception skills, a key factor in road safety.

Ensuring new drivers have current relevant knowledge and skills is a vital part of the preparation of new drivers, who are disproportionality represented in casualty statistics. Learners will therefore need to pass another theory test if their certificate expires.

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