Testing time - people urged to persist to beat the backlog

A NUMBER of young people in the district say they're being driven to distraction by waiting months for a driving test.
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It’s claimed there are very few slots available between now and the summer and any that do come up are cancellations, invariably at short notice.

A local woman whose daughter is starting out on a childminding career, has told the Chronicle the delay is having a serious impact on her job and giving the 25-year-old "many sleepless nights."

Local driving instructors admit there are issues, but insist the key to getting an early date is constantly checking for tests online.

Driving instructor Donna McElherron says driving test appointments are “few and far between.”Driving instructor Donna McElherron says driving test appointments are “few and far between.”
Driving instructor Donna McElherron says driving test appointments are “few and far between.”

Donna McElherron is an ADI (Approved Driving Instructor) who runs Banbridge driving school ‘It’s a Mini Thing.’

She says: "If you go onto the system right now, it probably will say none available for Newry, Armagh and Craigavon. But, if you persevere, they pop up every week.

"You have to stick at it. It might say none available, or it might say July, but if you kept going on every week, and you go on at the right time, you'll get one - but they are few and far between.

"There are a lot of people looking for a small amount of tests.

"Newry is the only centre I use, but in close by areas it's probably much of a muchness.

"If you went to Altnagelvin or Omagh, you're probably going to get a test next week. There's usually quite a lot on the system for those areas."

There are also reports of people booking tests without asking their instructor if they're available to accompany them.

Donna says: "So, sometimes people will go on and they'll see a test, for example, for tomorrow five past 12, but they won't have bothered to ask us if we're actually available at five past 12 tomorrow, go ahead and book it and then that test is either going to be wasted or they're going to have to go in their own car - if they have one available. Because if I'm not available, I can't take you!

"You're going to lose the money (after a recent 50 per cent price hike). If you book the test for tomorrow, and pay for it today, and you don't turn up, that test is not only wasted, you've just wasted £65. And somebody who could have gone misses out, extending their wait.

"It's far too expensive to be wasting all that money and we don't want you to be wasting the test. There are people who want those tests that are ready to pass – and they can't get them because maybe somebody's booked it."

Donna added: "The examiners we do have are doing the best they can. A few more examiners would be nice, certainly in our local areas. However, I believe the DVA are saying they are fully staffed, which I find hard to believe. There are examiners who float about various centres, but I feel like we need more of them."


The mother of a young childminder who has been waiting weeks for a test has also spoken with the Chronicle.

The local care worker said: "It's very frustrating. She's already been waiting a couple of months and she's ready for it now.

“She is checking every day. She would like to have her test this month, but there are no dates coming up for March. In fact, she just checked today and July is the next available date in Newry.

"She needs to be able to drive for her work. Because she can't drive, she's been walking for miles a day.

"She does three school runs with kids; leaves them to school, then she has a run to do at 2pm and 3pm and she lives outside the town. She has three wee kids, one in the pram, one on the step behind the pram and one walking beside it - and has to drop them off. It's a serious situation. She really needs her test for her work.

"There's also the cost - lessons have to continue in the meantime. Her driving instructor said to her ‘you'll have your test for Easter’ – but it's not looking like it. There aren’t many cancellations and as soon as they come up they're gone.

"My daughter keeps saying ‘I wish I had a car.’ She has to look for a car as well, but she can't have one just sitting there and not using it. That's another waiting game.

"My daughter knows other young people in the same boat. The authorities have to get on top of it and put more dates up."


A spokesperson for the Department for Infrastructure said: “Since the resumption of driving test services following the pandemic, the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) has increased its driving test capacity by adopting a range of measures including the recruitment of additional driving examiners and the use of overtime to rota off-shift dual role examiners to provide further capacity and cover for leave.

"The DVA also offers driving test appointments on Sundays and bank holidays, where it is suitable to do so without compromising the integrity of the test."In 2022-2023, the DVA conducted 68,540 driving tests, which is the highest number of driving tests conducted since 2009. Almost 82% (56,132) of all driving tests in 2022-2023 were Category B (private car) tests. Disappointingly, 2,812 people failed to attend their test, which is the highest number on record.

"The DVA’s advice to customers is to book and pay for the earliest date available and check the booking system regularly for an earlier date, as additional appointment slots are added when resources become available and when cancellations are made. The DVA remains committed to reducing the waiting times for driving tests.”