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Learning to drive during lockdown in the UK

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency cancelled all driving tests in England, Scotland and Wales in March. This has left students who were learning to drive in a total state of limbo facing near total uncertainty about when they will be able to secure their driving exams and get their license.

All theory tests are suspended from 20th March 2020 to April 2020 while all practical tests have been halted for at least three months.

The licencing body said the decision needed to be made to prevent the spread of COVID-19: tests lead to extended contact between candidates and examiners in vehicles and therefore post significant risk to spreading COVID-19.

In Northern Ireland, which is independent from the UK system, tests have been suspended for three months from 20th March 2020.

The DVSA said that it will put plans in place to provide emergency driving tests for people who provide critical services such as NHS workers.

What does this mean for being able to learn to drive, and take your tests. With driving test cancellations having already happened, what should you do?

Firstly - don’t despair. You should ensure you keep to your test standard as much as possible. This means using your own car if you can (maintaining social distancing) in order to keep your driving skills sharp.

The moment the tests re-open, you should aim to book one as soon as possible. The DVSA will be rebooking any tests that had to be cancelled due to COVID-19, however they are not communicating any guarantees about the order in which the tests are rebooked. From their point of view: this is understandable - given the shift in resourcing (examiners, administrative workers, vehicle support, etc.) it’s impossible to maintain a “first in first out” system while also accommodating individual adjustments that need to be made by candidates, instructors, and the DVSA themselves.

That said, from the perspective of the candidate, this potentially means not even taking their test in 2020 which would cause many people (especially students) to have to defer their tests until the Summer of 2021 at the earliest.

Once the service does re-open again for booking, there is very likely going to be a significant waiting list to take your test. Historically, the waiting list at the most popular driving test centres is at least three months. In fact, it’s usually so long, you couldn’t even book a test anymore because the DVSA does not want to encourage booked tests that are very far away and subject to extreme change.

This is where driving test cancellation companies come in to help. They scour the official booking systems to snap up driving test slots that have been cancelled by other students who are not yet ready to take their test. While you can do this yourself, it’s nearly impossible - these systems check nearly every minute of every day - something which you simply cannot do if you’re a single human user.

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