Driving test waiting times over 30 weeks for learners in six centres

There are currently over 50,000 learner drivers eligible to sit their test but who are either waiting for test slots or who have just received an invitation to book one

Learner drivers are now waiting an average of 19 weeks, or almost five months, for driving tests. In some cases the waiting time can be more than 30 weeks, bringing them into the second half of 2023, according to latest data to the end of November.

There are currently just over 50,000 learner drivers eligible to sit their test but who are either waiting for test slots to become available or who have just received an invitation to book one.

In a bid to slash the backlog contract driving testers are to be brought into test centres, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) has confirmed.

The figures show the minimum waiting period for a test is 11 weeks. Although the average waiting time to be invited to book a test is 19 weeks, many centres are far beyond that.

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In the case of Westside in Galway, would-be applicants can expect to wait 39 weeks for an invitation, bringing them into early September 2023.

The estimated waiting times extend to 30 weeks or more in six of 60 listed test centres – Drogheda, Co Louth; Westside, Galway; Woodview, Limerick; Loughrea, Co Galway; Navan, Co Meath; and Shannon, Co Clare – with the earliest anticipated invitation date in early July.

Another 18 centres have “estimated weeks to invitation” times of between 20 and 29 weeks, including Dún Laoghaire/Deansgrange in south Dublin; Killester, north Dublin; Mulhuddart in west Dublin; Dungarvan, Co Waterford; and Dundalk, Co Louth.

At Tallaght in south Dublin 5,711 people were classed as waiting by the end of November. Separately at the same centre, 5,048 drivers had been “paused”, where invitations to book a test were issued but remained unused after 10 days.

Other test centres with the highest numbers waiting for driving tests were in Dún Laoghaire/Deansgrange in Dublin (2,545); Finglas, Dublin (2,453); and Naas, Co Kildare (2,250). The shortest list was in Clifden, Co Galway, where 106 drivers were waiting.

Only slightly more than half (53 per cent) of learner drivers who sit their tests pass, meaning many will seek a second test, placing repeat strain on the system.

According to the RSA, a little over 170,000 tests were booked in the first 11 months of the year, of which 155,000 (91 per cent) went ahead.

The RSA has stepped up efforts to cut numbers. It launched a recent recruitment campaign to increase permanent staff in the Driver Testing Service from 100 to 130, some of which are now in situ with 15 more expected over the coming weeks.

“This will increase the capacity for driving tests at various locations across the country and reduce time to invite estimates,” a spokesman said. “In addition plans are now under way to ensure that sufficient contracted testers are available to deal with surplus backlogs with a view to returning to normal service levels.”

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times