Practical and theory driving tests are like ‘gold dust’ as examiners work through a queue of around 420,000 people across the UK.
The Drivers and Vehicles Standards Agency (DVSA) is urging people to be patient while it takes steps to ease the backlog caused by the pandemic.
The lack of test appointments is mounting extra pressure on students to pass first time or potentially face a long wait to resit.
Meanwhile, many are regularly trawling through cancellation pages and booking tests which are sometimes hundreds of miles away from their home.
The DVSA say it’s training more examiners and making extra slots available at weekends and out-of-hours to ease the backlog, but added that stressed students must be “test ready”.
Jamie Powell, from Aberdeen, started lessons shortly after his 17th birthday in March 2020, but just a week later the country was in lockdown.
A second lockdown during the start of this year meant his test was cancelled. He’ll eventually sit his rescheduled exam later this month.
The teen said: “There’s no test available – I went on to see if I could get an earlier test than the one I have but it’s completely booked out. It’s been really frustrating because I’ve wanted to drive to work and be able to pick up some more shifts.”
Jamie says the constant disruption has deterred some of his peers from driving.
“Some of my friends have decided to not learn to drive this year – they see it’s going to take a long time and they can’t even get a theory test booked,” he said.
“They’ve just decided there’s no point in doing it this year.”
Paddy Pollard, from iDriving School in Aberdeen, has been guiding Jamie and other pupils through their lessons.
While he’s happy to teach students again after a year of unease, demand is such that he has no space for extra lessons until at least August.
He says it’s frustrating that pupils are struggling to get places to sit their exam.
Mr Pollard said: “I’ve had pupils on my books since November/December 2019 – to their credit, they keep going – they’re coming back and want to pass. But it has been very hard for them.
“There are no bookings for them to get to achieve the goal of passing. It’s frustrating for them and frustrating for us as well because there’s no possible way of taking on new students.
“You do feel like you’re letting people down.”
Mark Winn, DVSA’s chief driving instructor, said: “One of the things candidates and instructors can do which would really help would be to make sure they are really ready to sit their test. It’s easy and free to postpone your test and put it back to make sure you are ready.
“A good piece of advice would be to talk with your instructor to make sure you are ready and confident you will pass before you come and see us.”