DRIVING TESTS | Mallon outlines action plan for the return of driving tests
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon today confirmed action plans for a priority booking system for driving tests following the Executive’s decision to reinstate practical driving tests from 23 April 2021.
Between now and 26 April, those customers affected by the restrictions and who had their appointments cancelled and fee refunded will be advised by the DVA how they can book a new test date before the booking system will open in three phases:
PHASE 3: The DVA is set to reopen the booking service for all other customers in mid-May and they will issue further communications through nidirect and social media channels, and write to all Approved Driving Instructors to confirm the process and the exact date.
The DVA will contact Phase 1 and Phase 2 customers directly to advise them when they can access the booking system.
Minister Mallon said:
“My priority during this crisis continues to be to keep customers and staff safe while minimising disruption. Practical driving tests along with other close contact services have been disrupted due to the Executive regulations introduced to help stop the spread of Covid-19. These are challenging times for us all and I appreciate the frustrations felt by learner drivers who have been unable to take their practical driving tests during this time.
“To mitigate the impact on customers due to the cessation of practical driving tests, I brought forward legislation to extend the validity of theory test pass certificates. As I announced in January, bookings for driving tests will be prioritised based on the expiry dates of theory test pass certificates. I can confirm that the booking service will open in three phases between now and the middle of May and it is right and fair that priority is given to those who have been waiting for the longest time.
“The DVA has, and continues, to work hard to maximise the availability of test slots and plans to release additional slots in May, June and July to provide further capacity.
“The DVA continues to increase its capacity by recruiting additional examiners and will be offering evening appointments as we move into spring and the brighter nights. The DVA will continue to offer driving tests on a Saturday and driving tests for Heavy Goods Vehicles on Sundays where it is suitable to do so without compromising the integrity of the test. Overtime will also be used to rota off-shift dual role driving examiners to provide further capacity.
“All driving test services across these islands are experiencing high demand with longer than usual waiting times, like all public facing services, the Covid restrictions mean that the DVA has had to adapt its services to ensure that they can be provided safely. The Department, the DVA and I remain committed to minimising disruption and ensuring our plan for the restoration of services is in hand, and most importantly remain committed to protecting the lives of staff and customers during this pandemic.”
The theory test provider has confirmed that theory tests will resume from 23 April 2021. Customers can book appointments through the online theory test booking system, with priority initially being given to customers whose tests have been affected by the suspension of theory test services due to Covid-19 restrictions.
These customers have been contacted with details of how to reschedule their appointment. The DVA is working closely with the theory test provider to ensure that additional theory test appointments are made available, through a combination of extended opening hours at the six existing theory test centres here and the opening of an additional temporary centre in Ballymena.
Further information on driving tests is available here:
• The Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) Regulations (NI) 1996 were amended at the beginning of September 2020 to allow an eight month extension to the validity of theory test pass certificates, which expired between 1 March and 31 October 2020 and a six month extension to the validity of off-road motorcycle test pass certificates, which expired between 1 March 2020 and 31 August 2020.
• Further legislation came into operation on Monday 7 December 2020. Theory test pass certificates which had been extended by eight months, had their validity period extended by a further four months. In addition, theory test pass certificates which expire between 1 November 2020 and 30 June 2021, and which have not already benefited from an extension, have had their validity period extended by eight months.
• Approximately 22,000 customers hold a private car theory test pass certificate and have not currently booked a practical driving test, although it is expected that not all of these customers will be interested in taking a driving test given the time that has elapsed since they passed their theory test. There are approximately 8,600 customers in Phases 1 and 2 and the DVA will contact these customers directly to advise them when they can access the booking system.