Written answers

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport

Driver Test

Photo of Violet WynneViolet Wynne (Clare, Sinn Fein)
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226. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that parents who are awaiting their full driving test are now unable to drive their children to school in certain areas of rural County Clare; if contingency plans have been put in place to expedite these urgent licence applications; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53058/21]

Photo of Hildegarde NaughtonHildegarde Naughton (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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While I appreciate that the requirement to drive under the supervision of an experienced driver may be logistically challenging for learner drivers in rural communities, it has been an offence for a learner to drive without appropriate supervision since 2007.

The driving test sets out the minimum level of knowledge, skill and competency that a learner must demonstrate in order to become a fully licensed driver. Until a learner can meet this standard and pass this test they are not safe to take to our roads without appropriate supervision.

Until a learner has successfully passed the test, they are not in a position to apply for a driving licence.

The driver testing service must operate under restrictions in the interests of making it safe in the context of the continuing presence of Covid. Given the necessity for a tester to be in close proximity to a test candidate, and to get into vehicles brought by the candidates which are therefore not a controlled environment, this places limits on the capacity of the test service.

The Department is liaising with the RSA on an ongoing basis to meet the growing demand for tests. An additional 40 driver testers have been authorised along with 36 approved for retention or rehire in 2020. These new testers have completed their training and are now conducting live tests since July 2021.

When the service resumed in June 2020, testers were conducting five tests each per day. Since 27 September 2021, this has been increased to seven tests per tester per day.

An extra 10 temporary test centres have been opened and a further 9 locations have been expanded within the existing premises, to accommodate more testers.

Photo of Violet WynneViolet Wynne (Clare, Sinn Fein)
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227. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of persons awaiting their full licence driving test in each county in tabular form. [53059/21]

Photo of Hildegarde NaughtonHildegarde Naughton (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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Under legislation, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) is the body responsible for the operation of the Driving Test.

The information requested is held by the Road Safety Authority. This question is therefore being referred to the Authority for direct reply. I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if a response has not been received within ten days.

Photo of Violet WynneViolet Wynne (Clare, Sinn Fein)
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228. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if his attention has been drawn to the isolation that is now being caused for rural dwellers who have not been able to access a full driving test since the Covid-19 pandemic; if his attention has been further drawn to the way this is negatively impacting their access to services and their normal everyday business and that they run the risk of losing their vehicle if they do drive without a fully licensed driver; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53060/21]

Photo of Hildegarde NaughtonHildegarde Naughton (Galway West, Fine Gael)
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In line with the gradual reopening of services this summer, driving tests for all those who are eligible to take the test and have been waiting longest have now recommenced. Critical frontline workers continue to be the priority for the driver testing service. There is no discrimination against rural dwellers seeking a test. Everyone who is eligible to take a test can seek a date for a test.

While I appreciate that everyone is anxious to take their test, they must pass their Theory Test, hold a Learner Permit for at least 6 months and take 12 mandatory lessons before they are eligible to sit a test. It is also notable that on average 44% of all those who sit a driving test, fail the test.

While I am fully sympathetic that the requirement to drive under the supervision of an experienced driver may be difficult in families where there is a single qualified driver, I must be very clear that it has been an offence for a learner to drive without appropriate supervision since 2007. This is an important life-saving law and there can be no excuses for breaking it.

A learner permit is not a driving licence, but a permit to be on the road for the purpose of learning to drive under the supervision of an appropriately qualified driver. The driving test sets out the minimum level of knowledge, skill and competency that a learner must demonstrate in order to become a fully licensed driver. Until a learner can meet this standard and pass this test they are not safe to take to our roads without appropriate supervision.

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