COVID-19: Learner drivers ‘rusty’ as long suspension of lessons and tests comes to an end | UK News

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Learner drivers taking tests this week say they are feeling “rusty” behind the wheel, but the pressure is on as anyone who fails could have to wait months for another attempt.

Non-emergency driving tests have been banned since early January due to the coronavirus pandemic but they resume in England and Wales on Thursday, in Northern Ireland on Friday and in Scotland on 6 May at the earliest.

Among those preparing is Jade Bone, 24, from Southampton, who said she is “quite anxious” after more than three months without driving.

A ban on driving lessons was only lifted in England last week and Ms Bone told 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.”

Side view of black car driving fast.
Image: The number of driving licences among young people has fallen to its lowest recorded level

Ms Bone’s test is booked for Thursday but if she fails, she might not get another chance until August, due to a backlog.

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

Her instructor, Rob Fenn, of RED Driving School, said many of his students were “test-ready” in January but had “gone backwards” during their long wait to be able to drive and sit their test.

“They’ve got a bit rusty,” he explained.

“They need a few lessons to get back up to where they were prior to lockdown.”

Due to the backed up demand, many driving tutors are fully booked, with Mr Fenn saying he had heard from nine new students in the past five days, a rate that was “unheard of”.

The suspension of lessons and tests earlier this year has resulted in the number of driving licences among young people falling to its lowest recorded level.

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

Another learner taking a test this week, Olivia Watts, 17, of Chelmsford, Essex, said she had struggled to book her test slot because of the backlog.

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

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

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said earlier this month that more tests and more examiners will be offered in a bid to meet demand, including additional slots at weekends and on bank holidays.