EDT driving instructors should be given teacher-certify style powers to enable drivers demonstrate their proficiency on the road and receive a full licence.
This is a suggestion brought forward by motor insurance experts at Coverinaclick.ie who say that the current driving test backlog, which shows no signs of abating and is likely to worsen, is going to cost motorists thousands in additional premiums.
The online brokers say that while the newly suggested initiative may not be possible to roll out across the board, as most of the 85,000 on the waiting list will have already completed their driver training, it could be trialled on the 24,000 plus drivers on the Essential Driver Training (EDT) wait list, which is growing by the week.
Coverinaclick.ie report that before entering lockdown, the average wait for a test in Ireland was almost seven months, up from six weeks on average in pre-crisis times.
Testing was suspended entirely on March 13 and resumed on July 20 but the number of tests taken had reduced from 4,000–4,500 a week to on average, 3,000. This left a timeframe of about 30 weeks to clear the backlog alone.
However, the insurance experts say that because tests were limited to essential workers for a time, the backlog is going to get significantly worse, and the wait time could potentially hit 12 months by early next year. Therefore, an alternative solution is imperative.
Deirdre McCarthy, Manager with Coverinaclick.ie, described how the temporary initiative could work in practice: “Of the 85,000 plus drivers on the wait list, approximately 24,000 of them are actually on the EDT wait list.
“This list is mostly made of young drivers who are already paying high prices for their insurance.
“These drivers have not yet completed the 12 lessons, but are in the process of doing so with a view to then taking their test.
“We are suggesting that approved driving instructors, who have been categorised as essential workers, could be asked to complete a detailed assessment after each of the 12 lessons, which they would then submit, on a confidential basis, to the RSA stating whether they believe that the person is fully competent.
“The RSA could then consider their report and decide whether to grant that person a full licence. According to the RSA, the current pass rate for those taking the driving test is 55.2%, so we would expect the pass rate for this process to be similar.
“While not ideal, this calculated grade style system seems to be one of very few feasible options to tackle a problem that is only going to get much worse.
“The RSA have already stated how difficult it is to apply the necessary Covid protocols in the driving test environment and it is widely accepted that these protocols will be in place for at least another six months.
“Some action needs to be taken now to alleviate some of the pressure the driving test centres are under, and to facilitate drivers to demonstrate that their proficiency on the road within a reasonable timeframe.”