Minister stalls driving tests

Minister stalls driving tests

25 March 2020

MOTORISTS across the district due to take their driving tests over the next three months have been told that they will not take place due to the coronavirus.

The Driver and Vehicle Agency has confirmed that all practical driving tests have been suspended following the latest advice from public health authorities to delay the spread of the coronavirus.

The move will have an impact locally, both on those hoping to pass their tests and driving instructors, some of whom fear that the social isolation advice may impact heavily on their industry.

Stormont infrastructure minister, Nichola Mallon, said that keeping communities safe at this “concerning time” is her priority and she understands that the cancellation of driving tests will cause inconvenience to customers and businesses.

However, Ms Mallon insists that it is the right thing to do, given the public health advice concerning social distancing and given the personal nature of the driver testing service. 

“Driving examiners are in close proximity to members of the public, in a confined space, for up to 40 minutes on each driving test,” explained the minister.

“I know this is a time of great uncertainty for people and want to assure affected staff that they will continue to be paid a salary. We will also continue to engage with the local sector and keep them informed as the situation evolves.” 

The suspension of driving tests runs from Monday of this week to until June 22, with the decision kept under review.

Ms Mallon said people who have a driving test scheduled during this period will have the test rescheduled or may apply for a refund. 

She continued: “The DVA will issue clear instructions in the coming days advising candidates of next steps and updates around the re-starting of driving tests and details will be published online on nidirect.

“We are experiencing an unprecedented and fast-evolving situation. In line with the current guidance, it is necessary to adopt these measures to protect customers, staff and to allow the DVA to prioritise essential services. These measures will be kept under review and updated as necessary.”

The infrastructure minister said while the current circumstances are “exceptional”, in relation to emergency workers and essential service drivers needing a driving test, the DVA will make all reasonable efforts to accommodate these customers.

Ms Mallon added: “I would encourage the public to continue to do what they can to delay the spread of the virus and follow the latest advice from the Public Health Agency. 

“I know this is a frightening time for people, but want to reassure them that within my Department and working with all government departments, we will continue to do all we can to keep people safe.”

Further information about the suspension of driving tests and how to apply for an emergency driving test will be provided over the coming days.