Learner drivers gearing up to hit the roads as lessons and theory tests restart in England may face a lengthy wait before they can pass their practical.
Although instructors can resume business on Saturday following the coronavirus lockdown, driving tests will be prioritised for those whose tests were cancelled as a result of the crisis.
The Driver and Vehicles Standards Agency (DVSA) said cancelled tests would be rescheduled for essential workers including NHS, teaching and supermarket staff from 6 July.
DVSA will contact non-critical workers who had booked a test to rebook from 22 July, although exams may not resume until August, according to a spokesperson.
The same source said it was very difficult to say when those who had not already booked a test would be able to reserve a slot.
Ashley Neal, a YouTuber who runs a Merseyside driving school, said he believed many people starting lessons now would not be able to pass this year.
“With the backlog, and then passing the theory test, and then getting a [practical] test I cant see many people getting through it if they were to start their lessons now,” he said.
Practical and theory tests have been suspended in the UK since 20 March for everyone except for some critical workers. Lessons were prohibited under coronavirus legislation to prevent the spread of Covid-19. More than 4,000 driving tests a day usually take place across the country.
The insurance firm Marmalade, which specialises in covering young drivers, calculated that more than 35,000 theory test certificates will have expired by 22 July, but no learners have been given an extension.
Anyone whose theory test expired during the lockdown will be required to pay another £23 and sit the test again before they can take their practical.
Learners can also expect to be asked to follow new rules during lessons. Guidance published on Thursday by the DVSA and NASP, an industry body representing more than 20,000 instructors, advises people to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds before getting into the car.
Other guidelines include wearing clothes that cover as much of their body as is reasonable, including long trousers, and driving with the windows down as much as possible.
They may also be contacted by instructors, who will clean their cars between clients, before a lesson to ask if they have had symptoms of the virus in the last seven days, or have been in contact with anyone who has in the last fortnight.
Neal supports the measures, but he criticised the lack of time the industry had been given to prepare. “The advice for driving instructors only came out last night and we go back to work tomorrow,” he said on Friday, “The communication over the last three months for driving instructors [has] been diabolical.
“Most industries have had a clear roadmap of what theyve got to do and how theyve got to do it, yet we get our guidance two days before were due to go back to work.”
Both candidates and examiners will be required to wear face coverings during exams, but the rule does not apply to lessons.
The DVSA spokesperson said: “Were not going to tell [instructors] how they should run their business, or how to take care of themselves.”