Claims of rude testers among gripes by failed-test drivers

Road Safety Authority received 1,705 complaints since 2018 over failed tests

About 125,000 driving tests were conducted by the RSA in 2018, with a pass rate of about 53 per cent. Photograph: iStock

About 125,000 driving tests were conducted by the RSA in 2018, with a pass rate of about 53 per cent. Photograph: iStock


Claims of unfair instructions, foul-smelling testers and a failure to conduct driving tests in Irish were among the complaints received by the State last year by people who failed tests.

A sample of the 1,705 complaints received in 2018 by the Road Safety Authority, which manages the National Driver Licence Service, were released to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act.

About 125,000 driving tests were conducted by the RSA the previous year, with a pass rate of about 53 per cent.

Most complainants challenged the views of testers in detail on the various driving manoeuvres they failed on.

The RSA redacted the names of complainants and any information that might identify them. The sample lists in details the nature of the complaints and captures the anger of the failed applicants.

‘Nowhere close’

One driver in Portlaoise complained that the tester told them when they returned to the testing centre: “That was the slowest drive I have ever been on around Portlaoise”.

The tester also told them they were “nowhere close” to passing. The unsuccessful applicant argued that under RSA protocol the tester should have been far more diplomatic and broken the news more gently.

Another failed applicant complained that a midlands driving tester “smelt quite intensely” and when they rolled down their window, the instructor told them the test could not start with the windows down.

“From the start [the tester] did not help with my already high anxiety,” the complainant said in an email.

The applicant also complained that the tester was “very intimidating”.

At one point, the driver stopped at a “stop” sign but not quick enough to put the tester at ease as another car approached much quicker than expected.

“The instructor screamed aggressively ‘stop’ when I had already prepared to stop. The aggressive manner in shouting distracted me greatly. This occurred twice in the test and was really off-putting,” the applicant said.

“I understand the expectations of what doing my test is. However, I really feel the entire experience and test really did not help my nerves and confidence from start to finish, and I am making a complaint as this really isn’t acceptable for a test or in any way professional.”

Another driver complained that a 40-minute delay in their test “added to my stress levels during the test”.


“I am not making excuses for my test failure but I feel that the 40-minute delay was unacceptable. The whole process on the day was very unprofessional and unlike any driving test I had done.”

Another applicant who struggled with English described their tester as being “full of anger” and “very impolite” after they told the person to return to the driving test centre “if you don’t understand my English”.

One complainant argued that they applied to be tested through Irish but was “disappointed and dissatisfied” to be tested in English after applying, paying and preparing for the test to be conducted “as Gaeilge”.

“For what is always a daunting experience, I was not prepared and not expecting the test to be conducted in English and this put me somewhat out of my stride,” the failed applicant complained.

Another applicant complained about an RSA representative was “laying flat down” behind the driving instructor on the back seat during their test resulting in the driver being “extra cautious” and a fail.

RSA statistics show Raheny test centre in Dublin was the most difficult location to pass a test at last year, with a 38.7 per cent pass rate. The easiest was Clifden in Co Galway which has a 72 per cent pass rate.