Learner drivers will have to pay to take a new driving theory test after their theory certificates expired during lockdown.
After driving lessons were cancelled due to lockdown 3.0, those with theory certificates that were close to expiring will now have to wait longer to get their 'P plate'.
The government decided to not extend theory tests, despite students being unable to take driving tests during lockdown.
Once driving tests are allowed to go ahead, the learners whose theory certificates have expired will have to book and pay £23 to take a new test.
Chloe Norman, a full time student at University College London, has been unable to book a test and has described the 'pressure' she feels now that her theory certificate has expired.
The 19-year-old had a driving test in October which she took but unfortunately failed. "I felt so much added pressure in that driving test because I knew it was my one and only chance to pass before that theory test expired with the second lockdown coming," she said.
Chloe then rebooked her test for the 29th December which was then moved forward to the 3rd November as she used an app called 'Driving Test Now' through the DVLA, which moves your test as spots become available. When this was cancelled, it was moved to the 13th December and then was postponed again until 9th February, which has also been cancelled.
Her theory certificate expired a week later.
In total she paid for her £23 theory test and two driving tests - the one in October that she took and failed, and another which has been postponed. She is waiting to hear back from the DVLA about getting a refund for her second test.
Chloe contacted the DVSA when her theory test's expiration date was close to expiring. She was emailed a phone number to call. "I was expecting them to say 'we can refund you but the advice they gave me was to write to my local MP,'" she explained.
"I then said 'if I then said if I had had a driving test booked already which I couldn't physically take because we're in lockdown, when I pass my theory test again will I then be prioritised for a driving test' and they said 'no'".
Ideally Chloe would want her theory test extended so once lockdown restrictions on driving tests are lifted she can go ahead and book a new test. But now she must wait until she passes her theory test again.
"I feel like my hands are a bit tied," she said.
Chloe feels the government is not paying enough attention to learner drivers during lockdown. "If they did there would be less people on public transport."
Stella Locklear, a 25-year-old speech and languages therapy student from West Sussex, has also faced disruption.
Her theory test expired in February during lockdown after sitting the theory test two years ago.
She had a test booked in March 2020 but had to cancel because she was unwell. A week later, all tests were on hold due to lockdown. After being offered a new date in July, it was eventually pushed back to September.
"I failed this test as I'd only had around six weeks of lessons after a four month break and I was lacking confidence on the day," she explained.
The next free date was 2nd December - the last day of lockdown 2.0. "The night before they said I could take it, with less than a day's notice. I said no, as I hadn't had lessons in a month," Stella said.
This date also got pushed back to 16th February which was eventually cancelled too. "I've now been told I can't book a test because I need to re-do my theory test," she explained.
"They've not been very helpful, apart from rebooking my test. They won't offer an extension or refund even though it's no fault of my own and they won't give any idea of when I'll actually be able to do my theory test.
"I'd rather not do the theory test again as there is a backlog of people wanting to do it and it will delay things further, but I feel like I've been given no other alternative. "
In January, more than 30,000 learner drivers signed a petition demanding the government to give driving instructors the powers to pass their students. Chloe, however, does not agree although she says tests should go ahead but with extra precautions.
"I think they should permit driving tests to happen by taking the same precautions that you do with lessons. I wore a mask on my test. All the windows were open. I think it's the same thing as getting in a cab," says Chloe.
Stella agrees that theory tests should be extended to help students affected by all three national lockdowns. "Driving tests are being delayed for months on end due to lockdown This isn't our fault. I've being trying to pass my test for the last year, when I still had a year left on the theory test."
Learner driver insurance company Marmalade has stepped in to cover the cost of thousands of expired theory test certificates for learner drivers. The company filmed FOI requests over six months and found almost 50,000 learner drivers were left out of pocket due to the lockdowns in 2020.
The results found across all of 2020, 49,543 theory test certificates expired at a cost of £23 each. The cost equates to £1,139,489 in total .
If all learners pay to retake the test, combined with the loss that would be a total outgoing of £2,278,978.
Based on the 149 days of delays in 2020 where tests were paused, an average of 332 certificates expired daily.
At 332 certificates on average, over the course of the next six week lockdown, learners could lose £320,712, or £7,636 per day - a total of 13,944 tests
A DVSA spokesperson told Tyla: "Ensuring new drivers have current, relevant knowledge and skills to identify developing hazards is a vital part of the training for young and new drivers, who are disproportionately represented in casualty statistics.
"To ensure their safety, the Government has decided not to extend theory test certificates and learners will need to pass another theory test if their certificate expires."
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