Learner drivers ‘rusty’ as tests resume

Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent
·3-min read

Learner drivers taking tests when they resume this week have admitted feeling “rusty” behind the wheel.

Jade Bone, 24, from Southampton, said she is “quite anxious” after going more than three months without driving due to the ban on lessons, which was only lifted in England last week.

“My confidence has been knocked a bit,” she told the PA news agency.

“In my first couple of lessons back I was really rusty.

“Although I haven’t forgotten how to do things, my general confidence with driving isn’t what it was before. I’m a bit more hesitant now. I’m doubting myself.”

No non-emergency tests have been permitted in the UK since early January due to the coronavirus pandemic.

They restart in England and Wales on Thursday, in Northern Ireland on Friday, and in Scotland on May 6 at the earliest.

Ms Bone is concerned that if she does not pass on Thursday, she may not get another chance until August due to a backlog of candidates.

“It’s going to be so long before I’m able to get another test if this one doesn’t go quite to plan,” she said.

“That’s quite frustrating and a scary prospect, especially because it’s an expensive thing to do, having lessons.”

Ms Bone’s instructor, Rob Fenn, 56, described how lots of his students have “gone backwards” since being “test-ready” in January.

“They’ve got a bit rusty,” he explained. “They need a few lessons to get back up to where they were prior to lockdown.”

There are “so many people wanting lessons” but a lot are having to rely on their parents for tuition as “there’s just not enough driving instructors”, he said.

“In the last five days I’ve had nine new students, which is unheard of.”

Mr Fenn, of RED Driving School, said the requirement for learners to wear face coverings during lessons is “a bit frustrating”, as instructors “rely on facial expressions quite a lot because pupils don’t always say what they’re thinking”.

He added that tests are “essentially fully booked” due to pent-up demand.

He is advising eager students to “sit at a computer and keep refreshing the page”.

Another learner taking a test this week, Olivia Watts, 17, of Chelmsford, Essex, struggled to make a booking.

“I found it hard to book the test because there was a backlog,” she said.

“Every morning I had to look on the website because the slots would fill up really quickly.

“I had to wait for a cancellation because there weren’t any tests available until around August or September.”

Driving lcences held by 16-25 year-olds.
(PA Graphics)

Recent analysis by PA found that driving licence numbers among young people have fallen to the lowest level since current records began.

Just 2.97 million people in Britain aged 16-25 hold a full licence, down from 3.32 million in March 2020.

Motoring experts said the decline was due to the suspension of lessons and tests.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said earlier this month that the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency will “offer more tests and more examiners” in a bid to meet demand, including additional slots at weekends and on bank holidays.