Waiting times for driving tests are not improving but getting worse in many areas.

In a number of areas of the UK, candidates are having to wait more than five months. In all, 80% of all driving test centres have waiting times above the pre-pandemic average of six weeks.

All this comes from an AA Driving School report analysing official DVSA data.

Raising questions

The long waits are one reason why Loveday Ryder, the Chief Executive of the DVSA, was called to a meeting with Parliament’s Transport Select Committee.

In her latest official DVSA blog, Ryder discusses the meeting and hat the agency are doing to improve the picture.

“I explained to the committee that we missed out on doing about one million tests because of the pandemic. Since the COVID-19 restrictions ended we have made over a million additional driving tests available due to the measures we have taken.’

Why wait

According to Ryder, the three main reasons why driving test waiting times are longer are:

  • an increase in forecast demand caused by a stronger than expected economy
  • sustained industrial action
  • low customer confidence in driving test availability, resulting in a change in customers’ booking behaviour

She believes these issues will continue to result in long waiting times until the end of 2024 at the earliest.

In 2022 there were 1.8m car driving tests, a 6% increase on pre-COVID-19 levels. However, this up scaling failed to cope with both the pent up demand during the lockdowns, and ongoing live demand.

“We forecasted that this increase in demand would reduce and return to normal levels. So far, in 2023 up to the end of May we have received around 800,000 new bookings for driving tests which showed that the increase in demand for tests has continued. This has potentially resulted in a 7% increase in demand for driving tests compared to before the pandemic.”

Findings from the DVSA’s ‘Working as a driving instructor’ survey indicates that demand is not diminishing.  Only 28% of driving instructors have any availability to take on new clients, while 63% have a waiting list. What’s more, over a quarter have a waiting list of more than 10 learners

Industrial action

The recent national and regional industrial action that has also ha an effect on waiting times. With tests cancelled ue to industrial action, those tests have to be rescheduled as a priority.

Since December 2022, there have been 48 days of action that directly affected driving tests. This resulted in around 25,000 driving tests being cancelled and rebooked.

To minimise the negative effects on tests, the DSA claims to have increased the number of examiners working and offered tests over weekends and bank holidays

Changing behaviours

Ryder also believes the waiting times are changing learner’s behaviour in the learning to drive and testing process.

“In the past, a learner would find an instructor and have a few lessons before starting to study for their theory test. This allows them to apply the driving theory knowledge they are learning to the practical skills they are using in their lessons. As many of us learn better through doing, rather than reading.

Today, many learners are studying and taking their theory test before they have ever sat behind the wheel of a car. This is concerning as it means that some learners may struggle to see the connection between the theory and their practical driving skills.

In the past, most learners would wait until their instructor told them they were ready before booking their test. This was usually 6 to 8 weeks before the date of their test.

Now, due to a lack of confidence in the availability of tests, many learners are booking straight after they have passed their theory test. In some cases, this may mean that they are booking their driving test before they have sat behind the wheel.”

As well as overloading the system, the DVSA believe that it is leading to more test failures as learners are not fully prepared or ready for the test. This increases the number of people looking for test appointments.


At the same time as the system is having to deal with the backlogs and waiting times, it appears to be encouraging more fraudulent activity within the learning to drive and testing processes. Not least, the use of computer bots to book up tests and then sell them on to legitimate learners at inflated prices. There also seems to be more candidate impersonator services being offered, where people take the driving test on behalf of a legitimate candidate in order to ensure a test pass. The pressure on the system is causing a chain reaction of issues that are likely to continue until test waiting times begin to fall dramatically.

You can read Ryder Loveday’s blogs on these issues here.