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Learner drivers left frustrated with “unacceptable” driving test wait times

New data shows average wait times of as long as 14 weeks face new drivers booking tests across the UK

Leaner driver

Learner drivers across the country are being faced with an average of a 14-week wait when trying to book a driving test, with new data revealing that wait times are “still above pre-pandemic levels”.

A Freedom of Information request by the AA Driving School has uncovered that 45 per cent of test centres are experiencing similar or worse delays than before the COVID-19 pandemic, with 245 centres across the nation reporting a wait time of over six weeks. That’s not all, as nearly two-fifths (37 per cent) of test centres are experiencing wait times as long as five months or more. 

These figures, regarded as “unacceptably high” by the AA, have been recorded four months into a new six-month programme by the Driving Standards Agency (DVSA) in which it intends to provide an additional 150,000 tests by the end of March 2024.

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Still, while this does go some way to tackle the backlog, learner drivers should still expect a lengthy wait for their test; since the action by the DVSA began, the average wait has dropped from 18.7 to the reported 14.5 weeks. Additionally, while 151 centres were reporting 24-week waits at the end of last year, this has since dropped to 91 centres (28 per cent) in January.

Of course, there are some winners in this new DVSA scheme; seven centres including Bury St. Edmunds, Exeter and Ipswich all reported wait times dropping by as much as 23 weeks to just one week since October last year. That said, others, including Taunton and Peterhead, saw rises in wait times, the latter by a staggering 23 weeks.

Managing Director of AA Driving School, Camilla Benitz, expressed their disappointment, saying: “[It’s] unacceptable that we are now almost two years post-pandemic restrictions and learner drivers and instructors are still suffering the consequences.

 “For many people being able to drive is not a luxury – it is a necessity to get them to work, education and facilitate their social life.”

The standard cost for a practical driving test in the UK stands at £62, rising to £75 during the evening (after 4:30pm), weekends and bank holidays.

Click here for our list of the best first cars for new drivers...

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Consumer reporter

Tom is Auto Express' Consumer reporter, meaning he spends his time investigating the stories that matter to all motorists - enthusiasts or otherwise. An ex-BBC journalist and Multimedia Journalism graduate, Tom previously wrote for partner sites Carbuyer and DrivingElectric and you may also spot him throwing away his dignity by filming videos for the Auto Express social media channels.

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