Wales

Coronavirus: Learner drivers 'anxious' for tests to restart

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Media caption"No clarity" over driving lesson restart

Learner drivers have been left without clear guidance about when they will be able to take their tests, driving instructors have said.

They say there has been "no communication" from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

Steve Britton, a driving instructor from Bridgend, said instructors were "frustrated".

The DVSA said it was keeping the situation under "constant review" in line with guidance.

Ela Owen, 17, of Llanrwst in Conwy, had her test cancelled in March and rearranged for 28 July.

She said she was "disappointed" when the first test was cancelled and there remains "uncertainty" around whether she will be able to sit the rearranged test.

"We don't live in a city so there's not as many buses or trains to get to places, so needing a car in a rural area is quite important to have that independence," she said.

Image copyright Ela Owen
Image caption Ela Owen says having a car is important for independence in rural areas

Her driving instructor, Rhydian Hughes, said pupils with tests coming up were "frustrated" and "anxious", adding: "I can't tell them when they can start having lessons."

He said some instructors were thinking about installing a plastic screen between them and their pupils.

But Mr Hughes added: "I don't find that practical... although as a driving instructor I do have dual controls, at some situation or at times you might need to grab hold of the steering wheel."

Image caption Rhydian Hughes says he would not consider installing a plastic screen in his car

The DVSA, which is responsible for driving tests and approving driving instructors, has suspended tests until 20 June at the earliest, to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The latest figures available show that between July and September 2019, 32,340 driving tests took place in Wales.

Instructor Steve Britton said the backlog could be "four, five even six months" and he found it difficult to see how to make lessons safe.

"I've got a visor and masks but no information from anybody about how it's going to be used," he said.

Aaron Farmer, 18, who is one of Mr Britton's students, said he was waiting for his cancelled test to be rearranged.

He said his frustration had been increasing as lockdown measures have been easing.

Mr Farmer, who has not driven a car for two months, said: "It would probably take me a good few weeks again to get back into it and a lot of hours behind the wheel."

Image caption Instructor Steve Britton says he cannot see how you can make lessons safe

The Driving Instructors Association said it was concerned at a lack of information available for instructors and students.

A spokesman said: "Throughout this crisis there has been a disappointing lack of communication from the regulator.

"We've excused some of that in the earlier phase of this crisis as we are dealing with an unprecedented pandemic and every government agency is on the back foot to some degree in terms of issuing guidance.

"However, we are at a point now where guidance in crucial."

He added: "If the regulator knows now that they are not in a position to resume testing at the end of this month, then communicate that to trainers and their pupils now."

In a statement the DVSA said: "We understand how challenging the current situation is for the industry but our top priority is to stop the spread of coronavirus and keep everyone safe.

"We will continue to work closely with driving instructor associations on how and when we can resume driving tests and lessons in Wales and other parts of the UK.

"We're keeping the situation under constant review, in line with UK and Welsh government guidance, and will provide further information as soon as we can."

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