Due to the ongoing backlog created by pandemic lockdowns, learners who are desperate to obtain a driving licence are still being forced to wait weeks or even months to take their practical tests.
And despite the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency’s best efforts to reduce wait times over the last three years, exclusive data provided to MailOnline and This is Money reveals the severity of the delays students encounter at their nearby test centres.
Official data obtained from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) shows the current wait times at all 243 test centres throughout Britain and how they compare to pre-pandemic times. It also demonstrates that by travelling just a few miles to different centres, one could cut their waiting period by weeks.
Route-Led, a new programme that charts the driving test routes at every location nationwide, has made the information public, allowing learners to use it as a cheat sheet to practise before taking the test.
According to official statistics, the average wait time for a driving test has increased to more than three and a half months, which is roughly double what it was in 2020.
The DVSA has so far been unable to relieve the student backlog despite expanding testing hours, bringing older invigilators out of retirement, and introducing new rules and stipulations.
The agency’s most recent effort is to make people wait to take the test until they are completely prepared to do so by doubling the time they have from 10 to 28 days after failing one.
Route-Led claims that the DVSA would reduce its backlog by encouraging learners to choose testing locations with reduced wait times in an effort to relieve pressure on those with longer wait times. In some cases, testing locations within a 10-mile radius of one another would even offer far earlier test dates.
It requested information from the DVSA under the Freedom of Information Act in March regarding the average waiting times at each of its 243 driving test locations in England, Wales, and Scotland between April 1, 2019, and March 31, 2020, and between April 1, 2022, and March 31, 2023. In Northern Ireland, driver testing is not the responsibility of the DVSA.
The research reveals Wales had the shortest average waiting time of two months at the end of March this year.
The average wait time for a driving test is almost four months in Scotland and just over three and a half months in England.
In terms of the specific test centres, Bradford (Thornbury), Bolton (Manchester), Hamilton, Hendon (London) and Glasgow (Shieldhall) had the longest average delays of nearly six months at the end of March this year.
In contrast Cardigan and Carmarthen has the shortest average waiting time of just one month.
By travelling further to take the test, students can dramatically shorten the time between scheduling and sitting for the exam, according to a thorough study of the data.
By scheduling a driving test 16 miles away in Sale or Rochdale, where the average waiting time was two and a half months, learner drivers in Bolton, for instance, might reduce their waiting period from six months to more than half.
If drivers in the capital go an additional 6.6 miles to the Barnet test station (13.1 week waiting time), they can reduce their test wait times from Hendon (23.1 week waiting time) by 10 weeks.
Driving 16 miles to Darlington, where the average wait time between scheduling and taking a practical test is 9 weeks, may be an option for learner drivers who currently have to wait an average of 18.3 weeks.
Similar circumstances exist in Birmingham, where the average wait time is 18.9 weeks, yet test sites in Nuneaton and Stafford are only 30 miles away and have wait times of just 10.8 and 7.7 weeks, respectively.
Learners living in Liverpool can expect to have to twiddle their thumbs for 18.4 weeks before they can sit a practical test, but centres less than 10 miles away in Upton and Wallasey will be able to fit them in less than 11 weeks.
Other instances north of the border include lengthy wait periods, which are 18.8 weeks in Edinburgh, but are much shorter in Kirkaldy and Galashiels, at 12.3 and 10.4 weeks, respectively. And while the average delay in Glasgow is 22.3 weeks, it is only 7.7 weeks in Ayr.