Driving Test Delays Leave Rural Communities at a Serious Disadvantage

"Senator Boyhan highlights rural transport disadvantage as driving test waiting lists soar"

Irish Senator Victor Boyhan has raised concerns that long waiting lists at driving test centres and a lack of public transport options are leaving those living in rural areas “seriously disadvantaged” when it comes to travelling around. This issue has been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused a backlog of driving test applications. However, Minister of State with responsibility for road safety Jack Chambers has granted approval for the Road Safety Authority (RSA) to recruit 75 additional driving testers, bringing the total number of testers in the country to 200. This move has been welcomed, but the extra staff are not likely to be in place until October, which means that driving test backlogs will likely continue until then.

“This approval for new testers for the RSA is a positive and proactive response to an ongoing problem within the driver testing service across the state,” Minister Chambers stated. “By increasing the number of driver testers, the RSA can provide the testing service they are committed to delivering and a quality service each customer deserves. I would like to thank the public who have been patient while we manage these demand pressures on the service.”

According to RSA CEO Sam Waide, the backlog of applicants for driving tests should return to target customer service levels by the end of 2024. “I welcome this decision by the ministers and would like to thank my colleagues for their support and dedication over this challenging period. Our team have worked very hard to support applicants during this busy time. We look forward to working with these new staff to bring our driver testing service to normal levels,” said Waide.

However, Senator Boyhan has criticised the delay in recruiting the additional testers, stating that it is leaving those who live outside of big cities somewhat stranded. “Demand for a driving test is now at an unprecedented level and those living in rural communities without public transport options are seriously disadvantaged by the unacceptable waiting times,” he said. He said that agricultural communities are particularly impacted by the delays, and that the problem has numerous knock-on impacts. “Such a situation impacts on transport to third level education, training, placements and employments, not to mention vehicle insurance and the need at all times for an accompanying driver, which is not always realistic option,” he concluded.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on driving tests in Ireland. According to figures from the RSA, the number of driving tests conducted in 2020 was 30% lower than the previous year. This was due to the suspension of testing during the first lockdown, and the subsequent backlog of applications. While testing resumed in July, the number of tests conducted per week was reduced to allow for social distancing measures. This, combined with the backlog of applications, has led to long waiting times for driving tests.

The issue has been compounded by a lack of public transport options in rural areas. Many people in these areas rely on driving to get around, but the long waiting times for driving tests mean that they are unable to obtain a driving licence. This has a knock-on effect on their ability to access education, training, and employment opportunities.

The approval for 75 additional driving testers has been welcomed, but the delay in recruiting these staff means that driving test backlogs are likely to continue until at least October. This will continue to impact those living in rural areas, who are already at a disadvantage due to a lack of public transport options. While the additional staff will eventually help to reduce waiting times, more needs to be done to address the underlying issues that are causing this problem.

Categories: Agriculture