Driving test waiting times still ‘unacceptably high’ at 75% of driving test centres

Business people waiting sitting in a single file.

Waiting times for driving tests are still higher than pre-pandemic levels at three quarters of all driving test centres.

In total, 245 driving test centres still had average waits in excess of 6 weeks at the end of January and, of those, almost two-fifths (37%) had waiting times of more than 5 months.

The figure was taken four months into concerted action by the DVSA to make 150,000 test slots available to learners to try to tackle the lengthy waits.

According to DVSA data accessed by the AA Driving School, 91 (28%) driving test centres had average waits of 24 weeks or more on January 29th 2024. Four months previously there were 151 centres with 24 week waits. An unfortunate 69 centres had an average 24 week wait on both dates.

Between October 2nd 2023, when the DVSA started adding more test slots to try to tackle the backlog*, and January 29th 2024 waiting times worsened at 15% of all test centres; stayed the same at 25% and improved at 60%. The average waiting time across all permanent, remote and outstation driving test centres fell from 18.7 weeks to 14.5 weeks.

At the end of March, the DVSA will have added all the extra 150,000 driving test slots it created to its system.

Camilla Benitz, Managing Director AA Driving School, said: “Learners across the country face a postcode lottery on driving test waiting times and, while many areas have seen an improvement thanks to the extra slots created since October, there are still vast numbers who are stuck with stubbornly long or increased waiting times.

“There is still a long way to go to reduce average waiting times closer to pre-pandemic levels. Our concern is that we are not aware of any further plans by the DVSA to continue to bring the waiting times down to the pre-pandemic average of 6 weeks.

“Unfortunately, this means the best-case scenario after March 31st is that waiting times stay where they are, but the worst case and, in our view, likeliest, outcome is they start to creep up again.

“It is unacceptable that we are now almost two years post-pandemic restrictions and learner drivers and instructors are still suffering the consequences.

“For many people being able to drive is not a luxury – it is a necessity to get them to work, education and facilitate their social life.

“We need to see a renewed commitment from the DVSA to continuing to make additional driving test slots available but also to recruiting and retaining more examiners so additional learner test slots do not come at the expense of other vital DVSA services, such as driving instructor training exams, which we have seen falling availability of recently.”

Regional winners and losers

During the influx of 150,000 extra driving test slots, some driving test centres have seen big changes in their waiting times.

Seven test centres saw their waiting time improve by a massive 23 weeks, going from a 24 week wait to just one week:

Driving Test Centre NameAverage car waiting times as at 02/10/2023 (weeks)Average car waiting times as at 29/01/2024 (weeks)Difference (weeks)
Burgess Hill24123
Bury St Edmunds24123
Carlisle LGV (Cars)24123
Exeter24123
Fort William24123
Hereford24123
Ipswich24123

However, among the worst performers, waiting times increased by as much as 23 weeks:

Driving Test Centre NameAverage car waiting times as at 02/10/2023 (weeks)Average car waiting times as at 29/01/2024 (weeks)Difference (weeks)
Arbroath218-16
Taunton824-16
Buckie724-17
Culham LGV524-19
Crieff324-21
Peterhead124-23

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