More than 40,000 people have signed a petition calling on the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to allow learner drivers to bypass the official driving test.
The petition lodged on the UK Parliament petitions site calls for driving instructors to be allowed to issue a driving test pass to students to tackle the huge backlog of tests caused by Covid-19 restrictions.
Driving tests have been significantly disrupted once again during the latest lockdown, with lessons and all theory and practical tests suspended.
Following the first nationwide lockdown in March, 2020, hundreds of thousands of learners were forced to rearrange their driving tests after their original appointments were cancelled. This led to a backlog which was worsened by IT problems and a reduction in available appointments. Some learners have had to rearrange their practical driving test three times.
The petition’s author says: “It is unfair on learners who have been unable to book a test due to the pandemic to have to wait a significantly long time to be have access to booking one.”
While the petition has gather some online support instructors’ representatives have been quick to caution against the approach.
Tom Hixon, head of instructor support at Bill Plant Driving School, warned it could lead to decline in driving standards.
He said: “We really do feel for every learner driver affected over the course of the past 12 months.
“However, automatically passing learner drivers is categorically not the way forward. We have an extremely high standard of driving and road safety in the UK, which starts with the skills required to pass a practical test.
“Frustrations are high, but we simply don’t agree with passing learner drivers outside of the current DVSA managed examination process. A car can offer the driver freedom and independence, but we must not forget the dangers of a vehicle, especially for those unfit or without the necessary formal qualifications.”
Ian McIntosh, CEO at RED Driving School echoed his caution. He said: “The solution is not for the Government to allow instructors to grant learners a driving test past – this presents a huge conflict of interest and puts the future of road safety at risk. Instead, the focus should be on revamping the current testing regime implemented by the DVSA.
“The government must act now and plan to increase test centre activity once it’s safe to resume practical testing. The DVSA can do this by extending test centre hours, moving to a seven-day working week by implementing Sunday test slots, and paying its examiners overtime.”
The Government is yet to respond to the petition.