In normal times, (that is, the era of pre-covid), it wasn’t exactly easy for young people to get their show on the road. Nowadays, learner drivers face additional challenges such as cancelled lessons and extended delays to an already slow system.

Shortly after level 5 restrictions were imposed nationwide, the Road Safety Authority stated that driving tests would only be authorised “provided you are an essential worker involved in the provision of essential services or essential retail outlets”. This meant that a large number of non-essential learner drivers were forced to cancel their tests, prolonging a previously tedious task. Similarly, new drivers who wish to begin the process also face delays as driver theory tests have too been suspended due to the second lockdown.

Early in October, the Irish Times reported that “Candidates applying for a driving test […] will likely have to wait eight months for an appointment due to Covid-19 delays”. The RSA’s quoted figure of “43,192” people waiting for an appointment highlights the exacerbated backlog. Early in 2020, prior to lockdown, the average waiting time was six weeks.

Interruptions to lessons, delays in access to testing services and limited availability due to high demands are if only a minor part of the inconvenience of the process nowadays for young people. This does not consider costly lessons, tests, re-tests and moreover the financial implications of embarking on the pursuit of purchasing a car and finding suitable insurance are not making a valuable and life-long skill easy to achieve.

Eden Milne, 19, a young learner driver, told the College Tribune about the challenges she was facing in pursuing her license amidst the pandemic. “I had lessons planned for summer but obviously they couldn’t place. After struggling to get my learner’s permit in NDLS, I had only started my first lesson, which I had to wait significantly for, when the new lockdown was announced,” she said. “In the current context and overall system, young people are being discouraged from embarking on the ordinary journey of learning to drive.”

Eve Moore – Opinion Writer