Booking Driving Tests
If you are aged between 17 and 20 and live in the UK and currently don’t have your full driving licence then the pain over the last few month will have been very real. Not only have you had to cope with your loss of freedom and extra safety measures on a daily basis for months, you also are extremely unlikely to have managed to book a driving test. Of course a driving test is way down the list of important things at this time but remembering when I was 17, not being able to drive would have literally been the end of my world. Therefore I sincerely sympathise will the half a million driving students who have been left in this state of limbo.
Driving tests booked prior to lockdown
The first sign of pain was with all the students who had their tests booked prior to lockdown which were of course put on hold. Once the government decided to open driving test centres again the slow process of catching up was started. Around 200000 students were in this position, waiting to be contacted by email to be able to book their driving tests again. The government, although very slow to send out all these rebooking emails, did eventually manage to get all of these students back in the system.
I know by talking to my students that this waiting game was infuriating and of course this had a severe knock on to instructors and the frequency of the learners driving lessons. Not knowing dates was extremely difficult to plan around. How many lessons might a student need to be ready for this test, with the inevitable massive waiting times if they failed? For example a student might have had intensive lessons to get them ready but when their test came around they might have had to wait 3 months. In that time if home practice was not possible the student would be in limbo whether to take extra lessons to keep their practice up.
As with all learned skills practice makes perfect and stopping lessons wouldnt have been good for their development. However all instructors appreciated the extra cost involved here. This was a tricky juggling act.
I am pleased to say though that the backlog of pre-lockdown tests is nearing its end now and most of my students have now taken their tests and passed. A frustrating 6 month wait but worth it in the end.
DVSA Booking System Crashed
The bigger nightmare was still to come with around 1/2m students who hadn’t booked their tests prior to lockdown who now all wanted to get a test date. The first day the DVSA opened up the booking system it crashed after less than an hour with over 4 million hits of people trying to get on the system to book. It then took around a week with the system being down to reopen it with a queuing system added to it to hopefully avoid the volume of traffic to the site.
With only six weeks of tests being launched on the second occasion the system was opened and crashed again. One of my students logged on at exactly 8am (the time the system was open) and they were 63000th in the queue. After being in the queue for 8 hours the system crashed again. Again no booking for this student. This was the scene across the country, with an estimated half a million students clambering over limited tests. The nearest equivalent for such high demand must be when a band is to do a one off gig for 10000 people but 4 million people all log on at once to get the tickets. Free for all, with inevitable disappointment.
Today the system was opened again with over 375000 tests being offered over an 18 week period. Yes students logged on at 8am to only be told they were 166000th in the queue but apart from the long wait it didn’t matter as a test would be found. The system so far hasn’t crashed again and although some tests are as late as January 2021, at least we all know where we stand. Driving instructors and students alike can now finally plan their lessons to get them safely to test. A waste of 2020 driving wise but as we all know this is a drop in the ocean as to the other bigger heartaches, sadness and disruption Covid-19 has caused. Sometimes we need to put these setbacks into perspective.