Fylde coast learners faced nearly four-month wait for driving test in Blackpool in March

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Learner drivers in the Fylde coast were waiting nearly four months for a test in Blackpool in March, new figures show.

The coronavirus pandemic saw waiting times at driving test centres across Great Britain shoot up, as tests were halted during successive lockdowns.

New figures from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, obtained by RADAR through a freedom of information request, show that learners were waiting 15 weeks to take their driving test at Blackpool testing centre as of the end of March – far exceeding the Government's six-week target.

This was up from 14 weeks at the end of March 2020.

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Driving test centre on Warbreck Hill Road in BlackpoolDriving test centre on Warbreck Hill Road in Blackpool
Driving test centre on Warbreck Hill Road in Blackpool

As of the end of March, more than 500,000 people were waiting for a test across Britain – seven times the 70,000 waiting in March 2020, and up from 372,000 last year.

The number of people waiting by test centre was not available.

Head of roads policy at the RAC, Nicholas Lyes, said: “There’s little doubt the pandemic has had an impact on practical driving test backlogs, though we’re encouraged that the DVSA is taking steps to get on top of this including offering overtime for instructors, as well as making tests available on weekends and over public holidays.

"The figures powerfully demonstrate the continuing strong demand from younger people to get their full driving licence, given the opportunities and freedom that comes with driving.”

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Across Britain, 123 driving test centres had waits of at least six months as of March – 38% of the country's 324 testing sites.

Meanwhile, just 43 sites (13%) had waiting times of less than a month.

The DVSA said that it had since cut down waiting times, with 23% of test centres now having a wait of 24 weeks, and a further 23% within the target of six weeks as of November – although it could not provide figures on which centres had improved.

Chief executive of the DVSA, Loveday Ryder, said that it had taken "swift action" to tackle the impact of the pandemic.

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However, she added that more than half of learners are still failing their tests and urged them to check the "Ready to Pass" checklist available on the DVSA website.

Separate analysis by the RAC shows that more than 50,000 tests in the 12 months to March were taken by people who had already failed their test five times or more.

It said this may be driving up the backlog, as inexperienced learners take any test available for fear of missing out on a slot later on.