Driving tests for essential workers cancelled due to cold, claims union
Road Safety Authority rejects that tests being cancelled ‘arbitrarily’ over low temperatures
Windows must remain open during driving tests to create natural ventilation in the car to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19. File photograph: Alan Betson
Driving tests for essential workers have been cancelled because the Road Safety Authority (RSA) considered it was too cold to allow for car windows to be rolled down to meet Covid-19 rules, a trade union has alleged.
Unite said there were more than 64,000 people waiting for a driving test and that even essential workers were now being “frozen out” due to the pandemic rules.
However, the RSA said it categorically rejected that driving tests were being “arbitrarily” cancelled due to low temperatures.
It said they were “only being cancelled where leaving the windows open and continuing with the test would mean that conditions would deteriorate to such an unacceptable level that it would be impossible to conduct a driving test”.
Windows must remain open during driving tests to create natural ventilation in the car to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19.
The authority said the cancellation of most tests was due to dangerous roads as a result of recent severe weather.
Dominic Brophy, chairman of Unite’s approved driving instructor branch, said the union had received “multiple reports” of tests for essential workers being cancelled due to RSA testers feeling it was “too cold” to roll down the car windows during tests.
“The backlog is big enough as it is without cancelling tests for no good reason, especially for essential workers who we all depend on during this pandemic,” said Mr Brophy.
The union said the waiting time for driving tests was now about 25 weeks, compared with six weeks a year ago.
Unite regional officer Jean O’Dowd said that during Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions, only essential workers could sit their tests.
However, she said that even essential workers “have literally been frozen out by the Road Safety Authority, which has been arbitrarily cancelling tests due to low temperatures – despite the fact that weather conditions were dry and safe”.
Mr Brophy said the union had been seeking meaningful engagement with the relevant Ministers and the RSA for months.
On Monday the RSA said driver testers were undertaking driving tests in extraordinarily difficult conditions in the current Covid-19 environment. It said driving tests were conducted in an enclosed space for a period of more than 15 minutes, where physical distancing was not possible.
“To mitigate the risk in such a scenario, the Road Safety Authority has put several controls in place to protect both our testers and customers, one of which is the introduction of natural ventilation to the car. Windows need to remain open to allow for circulation of air whilst driving. This is for the safety of both the tester and the customers, a responsibility the Road Safety Authority takes very seriously.”
The authority said most driving tests that were being cancelled at present were because roads around the test centre were potentially dangerous due to the severe weather.
“Both the driver tester and the customer doing the test must be able to carry out the test safely. In conditions where a customer is trying to drive in excessively cold conditions and their ability to manage the vehicle is compromised, [it] is simply not a safe environment in which to conduct a test. It is a matter of health and safety which the Road Safety Authority and its testers take very seriously.”
The RSA said that 484 tests were cancelled last week for weather-related reasons “including situations where the tests were generally cancelled by the Road Safety Authority because of unsafe conditions at test centres, [for example] ice and snow, in cases where the customer said they were unable to attend because of dangerous conditions and in situations where the test did not proceed because the tester was unable to conduct it because of in-vehicle conditions”.