Written answers

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport

Driver Test

Photo of Thomas PringleThomas Pringle (Donegal, Independent)
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85. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he has organised plans to address the lack of access to toilets, hand washing facilities and shelter for driving instructors at national test centres who are still working under level 5 restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2477/21]

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Dublin Bay South, Green Party)
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Operational arrangements at test centres, including the availability of waiting and washing facilities, are a matter for the Road Safety Authority.

I understand that the Authority decided to temporarily close public toilet and waiting facilities in the interests of public safety - and particularly the health and safety of testers and other test centre workers - as part of its overall Covid-19 resumption of service protocols and in line with health and safety risk-assessment procedures which had to be adopted as part of the RSA's resumption plans.

It took account of guidance issued by the Health and Safety Authority and the return-to-work-safely protocol agreed by the Labour and Employer Economic Forum, LEEF.

In response to a formal request from Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton to review these arrangements, the Authority wrote to the Department in November outlining the absolute necessity of retaining these safety measures.

While the Authority recognises that this may be inconvenient for partners, family members and indeed driving instructors who accompany learner drivers to their tests, the fact remains that the more people who enter a building, the greater the risk of Covid spreading.

The safety of staff and the public in general must remain the Road Safety Authority's number one priority at this time.

Photo of Thomas PringleThomas Pringle (Donegal, Independent)
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86. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to the lack of access to toilets, hand washing facilities and shelter for driving instructors at national test centres who are still working under level 5 restrictions; the action he will take to rectify this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2478/21]

Photo of Hildegarde NaughtonHildegarde Naughton (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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Operational arrangements at test centres, including the availability of waiting and washing facilities, are a matter for the Road Safety Authority.

I understand that the Authority decided to temporarily close public toilet and waiting facilities in the interests of public safety and as part of its overall Covid-19 resumption of service protocols. These are in line with health and safety risk assessment procedures which had to be adopted as part of the RSA's resumption plans and took account of guidance issued by the Health and Safety Authority and the return to work safely protocol agreed by the Labour and Employer Economic Forum, LEEF.

In response to a formal request from Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton to review these arrangements, the Authority wrote to the Department in November outlining the absolute necessity of retaining these safety measures. While the Authority recognises that this may be inconvenient for partners, family members and indeed driving instructors who accompany learner drivers to their tests, the fact remains that the more people who enter a building, the greater the risk of Covid spreading. The safety of staff and the public in general must remain the Road Safety Authority's number one priority at this time.

Christopher O'Sullivan (Cork South West, Fianna Fail)
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87. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the action being taken to clear the growing backlog of driver theory tests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2487/21]

Photo of Hildegarde NaughtonHildegarde Naughton (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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Under current level 5 restrictions, the Driver Theory Test has not been deemed to be an essential service. As a consequence, the service is closed while level 5 restrictions remain in place. While I regret the inconvenience caused, I think you will agree with me that this decision was necessary for public health reasons.

The Road Safety Authority has advised my office that it is engaging with its service provider to maximise capacity to offer tests while adhering to occupational and public health requirements for when servicers are resumed. In this regard, they would, for example, be opening on additional days at some centres and extended hours also provided to allow additional capacity for appointments.

The Driver Theory Test service has launched a pilot phase of a new initiative, which offers a Remote Testing service for specific categories of Theory Test (C, D, CD, BMT, TMT, ADI, CPCB, CPCT). Following a review of the pilot phase, I understand the RSA expect the initiative to be extended for car and motorcycles in the future. As remote testing facilitates additional capacity whilst also enabling the service to continue in the event of further lockdowns, it would be expected this would greatly help in returning the service to normal waiting times.

The safety of the public is of paramount importance at this time. In all aspects of the Covid-19 crisis, my Department continues to be guided by National Public Health Emergency Team and the relevant national experts in relation to the provision of services.

Thomas Gould (Cork North Central, Sinn Fein)
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88. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the family of essential workers will be considered for driver tests currently, given that they are necessary to transport essential workers to and from work. [2535/21]

Photo of Hildegarde NaughtonHildegarde Naughton (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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Under Covid 19 Level 5 Government restrictions effective from 31 December 2020, candidates can attend their scheduled driving test appointment provided they are an essential worker involved in the provision of essential services or essential retail outlets. This will not be extended to the family of essential workers.

While I regret the inconvenience caused, I think you will agree with me that this is the correct decision for public health reasons. In a climate where only limited services are being provided in order to reduce the spread of Covid-19, coupled with the inherent risks in a service which inevitably involves testers and test candidates in close proximity in a confined space, I believe it is in everyone's interest that driving tests are suspended for all but essential workers.

Public health must come first and my Department continue to be guided by NPHET and other national experts in relation to the provision of services.

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