Learners can’t book a driving test before theory pass expires

They could be forced to pay for a retake and it’s impossible to get through to the DVSA

My brother-in-law has been trying to pass his driving test since before March this year. When Covid hit all tests were cancelled, but the challenge now is rebooking one.

Every two weeks the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency releases new slots for tests. As he is working, I offered to help.

I signed in last week just before 8am and more than 26,000 people were in front in the queue. After three hours, I was finally able to try booking a slot, but the DVSA has changed its booking platform. Previously, the system allowed you to see which dates were available and select one. Now you need to select a date, input your postcode and see if it is available.

Every time I put in a new date it says “no dates available” so I have to start again.

I managed to search each day for September, October and November. For December I then got the message “You have reached your maximum search for the hour. Please try again later.”

What makes it worse is that my brother-in-law’s driving theory test validity runs out at the end of the year. The DVSA has refused to extend this so, if he is unable to get his test done by December, he will have to pay to do his theory test again.

CB, Bishop Auckland

We feel your pain – and that of other frustrated learner drivers caught up in this unprecedented backlog. The DVSA told us that it has again closed its booking system, and apologised for any inconvenience, although this week it announced a further, larger wave of test slots up to January.

It says: “We are putting in place measures to increase the number of tests and will be making more than 375,000 available from 14 September. Then almost everyone should be able to book.”

The booking system will reopen on that Monday at 8am. Unfortunately, all we can advise is that you keep trying.

Sarah Rees, the managing director of AA Driving School, says: “The past few weeks have been a merry-go-round of failed attempts to book a test and hours waiting in an online queue that goes nowhere. There is an additional cohort of learners whose theory test certificates either expired during lockdown, or in the time since, who will have to pay for a retake the test before they attempt to book a practical test. We think it would be sensible of the government to extend theory test certificates immediately to reduce this burden.”

We welcome letters but cannot answer individually. Email us at consumer.champions@theguardian.com. Please include a daytime phone number. Submission and publication of all letters is subject to our terms and conditions: http://gu.com/letters-terms

Contributor

Rebecca Smithers

The GuardianTramp

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