Northern Ireland

Downpatrick learners face three months wait for driving test

‘Driver and Vehicle Agency in process of recruiting new full time driving examiners’ - Department for Infrastructure

The dispute is over proposals aimed at cutting the driving test backlog
Downpatrick learners face three months wait for driving test (Steve Parsons/PA)

People learning to drive in Downpatrick are facing waits of three months for their tests - the longest delay in the north.

This situation is a direct result of the moratorium on driving tests and MOTs during the covid lockdowns. There are now long waiting times for both.

New figures show that at 85.02 days or 12.15 weeks, the Downpatrick Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) test centre has the longest waiting time in the north.

Data obtained by the Sterling Insurance company showed it takes an average of 9.61 weeks after booking a test in Co Down, more than two weeks longer than the typical waiting time in the north.

After Downpatrick, the next longest waiting lists are in Dill Road in Belfast (10.70 weeks), Lisburn (10.62 weeks), and Cookstown (10.50 weeks).

In comparison, the drivers who are waiting the least time on their test are in Coleraine (6.88 weeks), Derry (6.15 weeks) and Enniskillen (5.07 weeks), with the shortest waiting time of all being at Omagh – 4.69 week or 32.84 days.

In a statement to The Irish News regarding the waiting test times, a Department for Infrastructure spokesperson said: “Over the last three years the Driver and Vehicle Agency has conducted an average of 65,500 driving tests each year, which is approximately 15% more than the three-year average prior to the pandemic.

“In Downpatrick test centre, the DVA conducted an average of 2,300 driving tests in each of the last three years, which is approximately 10% more than the three-year average prior to the pandemic.

“This increase in capacity has been achieved by adopting a range of measures including the recruitment of additional driving examiners, use of overtime to rota off-shift dual role examiners to provide further capacity and cover for leave, they also offer driving test appointments on Sundays and bank holidays, where it is suitable to do so without compromising the integrity of the test.”

DVA is in the process of recruiting new full time driving examiners.

Ten new examiners were appointed to their test centres in March and April and a further tranche of driving examiner training commenced on May 7. On successful completion of their training, these examiners will be allocated to their test centres by mid-June 2024.

“Additional test slots will also be released as resources continue to become available,” the spokesperson added.

“The DVA appreciates that learner drivers are keen to pass their test at the earliest opportunity and while there remains a high demand for driving tests, candidates should consider all the options available to them to secure an early appointment, including choosing an alternative location to take their test.”

Read the full report here.

The full list of driving test waiting times are:

Downpatrick – 85.02 days (12.15 weeks)

Dill Road, Belfast: 74.90 days (10.70 weeks)

Lisburn: 74.37 days (10.62 weeks)

Cookstown – 73.50 days (10.50 weeks)

Balmoral, Belfast: 69.05 days (9.86 weeks)

Larne: 68.66 days (9.81 weeks)

Ballymena: 57.41 days (8.20 weeks)

Newtownards – 55.78 days (7.97 weeks)

Newry: 53.95 days (7.71 weeks)

Craigavon – 46.78 days (6.68 weeks)

Armagh – 44.90 days (6.41 weeks)

Newtownards – 55.78 days (7.97 weeks)

Coleraine – 48.16 days (6.88 weeks)

Altnagelvin – 43.05 days (6.15 weeks)

Enniskillen – 35.49 days (5.07 weeks)

Omagh – 32.84 days (4.69 weeks)