Learner drivers who fail their driving test will have to wait longer before resitting under new rules being introduced to help cut waiting times.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) said the change would give learners more time to ensure they are ready for their test and free up much-needed slots for other candidates.
It is also extending the notice period for cancelling a driving test after revealing that around 6,500 tests a month are wasted due to last-minute cancellations or candidates missing apppointments.
Under the new rules, which will come into effect in the summer, learners will have to wait 28 days before rebooking their test rather than the current 10. This is to discourage those who fail from rebooking another test before they are ready - potentially blocking another learner from getting an appointment.
The cancellation notice period is also being extended from three days to 10, meaning anyone cancelling less than 10 days before their test will not receive a refund.
Both measures are intended to free up more test appointments as the DVSA tries to bring waiting times under control.
The Covid pandemic saw around 400,000 driving tests cancelled and caused a huge backlog of candidates trying to book when testing resumed. Since then the agency has struggled to bring waiting times under control, with some test centres fully booked up to 24 weeks in advance. In recent months it has also faced nationwide strike action by examiners, which led to thousands of tests being rescheduled or cancelled. The DVSA says it is working to bring waiting times down to nine weeks by the end of 2023 but the average wait has actually increased in the first quarter of the year, from 15.1 weeks in January to 16.1 weeks.
Loveday Ryder, chief executive of the DVSA, said the changes were intended to ensure drivers were properly prepared for their test and maximise appointment availability. She said: “With more than half of people failing their driving test, it is clear more needs to be done to make sure learner drivers only take their test when they are fully prepared. These new measures will help make sure test-ready learners find appointments and give those who fail more time for more practice.”
Over the last five years the average driving test pass rate has been 47% and the DVSA has revealed that examiners have to physically intervene in one in eight tests for safety reasons, suggesting many drivers are sitting their test before they are ready.
Ryder added: “I also urge learners to check out our Ready to Pass? website to make sure they’re ready – and delay their test if they’re not. This will help make more tests available and prevent them having to pay to retest.”