Wales

Coronavirus: Driving lessons in Wales can resume

A driver wears a face mask as seen in his rear-view mirror Image copyright ORLANDO BARRIA/EPA
Image caption Face coverings will be worn during driving lessons

Hygiene won't be the only issue for driving instructors to contend with as thousands of "rusty" learners get back behind the wheel after lockdown.

Driving lessons begin again in Wales on Monday, with theory tests from 3 August and practical tests from 17 August.

After four months off the road, instructors said some learners would be starting from scratch again.

Some instructors say they were pestered for lessons when rules relaxed over the border in England on 4 July.

For some unlucky learner drivers, lockdown started just as they felt ready to take their test or had one booked.

Starting from scratch?

Image copyright Caitlin Willoughby
Image caption Learner driver Caitlin Willoughby is looking forward to getting back behind the wheel

Caitlin Willoughby, 17, from Cardiff, said: "I was nearly finished. I'd learned all the manoeuvres and felt I was ready to do my test. I was almost there.

"I have a lesson booked for 3 August. I'm happy to have lessons again - I've been lucky to have a car at home to practise with my dad. I feel a bit rusty, but I feel I just need a refresher."

Sixth-form pupil Caitlin said she was looking forward to "that kind of freedom you get with driving" when she passes her test.

'It feels weird'

Supermarket worker Ellie Brooks, 17, from Cardiff, had a test booked for 3 April, which she had to cancel when lockdown was announced in March.

She said being able to drive would be "useful for work and for just getting around".

"With everything going on and being forced to wear masks on public transport, it feels safer and more convenient to be in your own car," she said.

"I'm having some lessons and I've got a test booked for 7 August. It feels weird getting behind the wheel again, but it should come naturally like riding a bike."

RED driving school instructor Martyn Chappell from Newport said, after four months, he would be expecting them to be a "bit rusty".

"A lot of them will be learning from scratch again," he added.

'Jammed with bookings'

Image copyright Janet Baxter
Image caption Driving instructor Eddie Osei is gearing up for a busy few months

Eddie Osei, of the West Wales School of Motoring, said he had had "a lot more inquiries" after the announcement that lessons could resume.

"To be honest, I'm completely booked up two months in advance, from students wanting to learn before they go to university to people who need to learn for work," he added.

Huw Davies, of H D Driving School in Caersws, Powys, said it had been "non-stop", with constant calls, emails and messages on social media from existing learners and new customers.

"I'm booked up for quite a while with lessons, but obviously can't take them for their tests for a while," he said.

"They'll be quite out of practice after lockdown. They're bound to be a bit rusty. Confidence and nerves can play a big part."

He added he had been pestered during lockdown by parents wanting lessons for their child.

"They were saying 'they're allowing people to have lessons in England, why can't we?' and wanted me to give their child lessons," he said.

"I don't know if some of them ended up travelling over the border for lessons."

'Mirror, signal, sanitise'

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Learners will need to use hand sanitiser before touching the steering wheel

Mr Davies said he had implemented a range of safety measures to protect himself and his learners against coronavirus.

"I've got an infra-red monitor to check their temperatures, there are wipeable seat covers and sanitisers in the car," he added.

"During lessons, I'll keep a lookout for any symptoms and keep the windows open."

What is the coronavirus guidance for driving lessons?

The Driving Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) said it had issued "guidance on safe conduct of lessons", with "additional guidance from trade bodies".

Keith Willicombe, of Bumps driving school in Cardiff, said: "As far as Covid safety measures are concerned, the DVSA are not laying down fixed rules but are offering guidelines.

"They say each company should devise their own health and safety strategy. They have, however, advised against wearing face shields as they could be dangerous should the airbag deploy."

Face coverings will also be mandatory for learners and instructors during lessons, unless there are medical grounds for not doing so.

"It's interesting when it comes to face coverings," Mr Willicombe said. "They are insistent the pupil wears one during their test but it's up to the instructor if they or their pupil wear one during lessons."

He added that he would be asking learners to cancel lessons if they have any Covid-19 symptoms or they or a member of their household are self isolating.

"We'll be wiping down all hand controls with antiseptic wipes between lessons, providing hand gel and keeping the windows open where possible during the lesson to provide ventilation," he said.

More on this story