UK experiences 73% drop in driving tests over the past year

The driving school industry has been closed for 205 days.

Over the past 12 months, there has been a 73% decrease in the number of driving tests in the UK, new data has found.

With the driving school industry being closed for 205 days, the team at analysed key data surrounding learner drivers and driving tests.

According to the DVSA, there were 1,599,566 driving tests between April 2019 and March 2020. Between April and December 2020 (not including the start of 2021 due to the third lockdown), there were just 430,644 driving tests that took place; a decrease of 73% year-on-year.

The research also revealed that the DVSA carries out roughly 1.6m driving tests per year, which equates to an estimated 4,384 driving tests per day.

According to the DVSA, there are currently 420,000 car tests in backlog, with the average waiting time for a driving test found to be 17 weeks (more than four months).

Tom Hixon, head of instructor support at, said: “According to the ONS, there are roughly 700,000 teenagers who turned 17 in the past year – this takes the number of outstanding and missed driving tests, coupled with potential upcoming driving tests yet to be booked, to well over one million; closer to 1.5 million if you assume the majority who turned 17 will be keen to get behind the wheel.

“We’ve all heard it a million and one times now, but we really have been living through unprecedented times. Sadly, this does not make it any easier a challenge to reopen an entire industry that’s been closed for many months and play catch up with the backlog. 

“The driving school industry is going to be working through the build-up for many months, if not into next year too. We are working as hard as ever to ensure our learners pass first time to do our part in getting through the backlog. Driving instructors are taking on more pupils than ever before, working longer days and doing everything they can to accommodate the increased demand. We, as a driving school, are also currently training many more driving instructors who will be joining this huge effort in the coming months.”

3 thoughts on “UK experiences 73% drop in driving tests over the past year”

  1. Antonio Persico

    I spoke to someone from the DVSA last week, eventually, because there were no dates showing for Swindon well into next year!! I’ve been trying to reschedule a couple of tests due to pupils not being ready because of lockdown, can’t do that because all dates are blocked off!! Very frustrating. He told me that you’ve just got to keep checking for cancellations. He also told me there was a 24 week waiting list, ridiculous.

  2. Philip Borlase

    More driving instructors can only help if we recruit more examiners. Unfortunately I don’t think the rate of pay is substantial enough to encourage people to take on this role.

  3. I can see that there might be a number of different scenarios for the driver trainer industry as a result to the lack of driving tests.
    There might be serious financial trouble ahead for ADIs, if new students delay commencing lessons due to having to wait four months for a test. Alternatively there might be an massive increase in the income of trainers as demand for lessons outstrip the supply of instructors.
    Once the current high demand for lessons has subsided, and students that have already started realise that there is no possibility of getting a test quickly, we might see a slump in demand (with those whose bread and butter is in intensive courses seeing the greatest effect).
    Such a slump could mean that more ADI’s leave the industry due to the instability in the market. This would lead to higher demand for those remaining and possibly (one would hope) an increase in lesson fees as a result. ADIs will then have to decide whether they are prepared to continue work at full capacity (as many currently are), to maximise their income and service the demand, or to reduce their hours to enjoy the fruits of their labour.
    Many might not have the option, as diaries, full to capacity, could eventually lead to burn out and force trainers to take on less work and/or leave the industry. This would stretch those remaining even more and lead to further lesson price inflation..
    Whatever happens we are in for some bumpy times ahead and it might be worth planning for the worst case scenario.

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