More than 64,000 learner drivers are facing a lengthy wait of up to 30 weeks before they can sit a driving test, it has been confirmed.
Liz O’Donnell, chairwoman of the Road Safety Authority, said that, while they are trying to clear the backlog, staffing is one of the main issues.
Ms O’Donnell told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communication Networks that waiting times before Covid-19 was six weeks, but that has now jumped to around 25 to 30 weeks.
“Everyone is concerned about the delays in driving tests,” she added.
“It is inevitable unfortunately.
“It’s a legacy from the suspension of all of our services since our first lockdown issue but since July we have managed to increase our capacity to deal with the backlog.
“There are currently 64,500 people either scheduled or eligible to take a driving test.
“We are trying to eat into the backlog.
“Since July we’ve managed to do about 30,000 tests and that’s an average of 3,500 tests per week.”
The RSA has written to transport minister Eamon Ryan seeking an additional 80 driving testers to help clear the backlog.
In October driving instructors took part in a protest calling for better work conditions during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Instructors said they are being forced to stand outside test centres with no access to bathroom facilities during driving tests.
Ms O’Donnell said she is aware of the complaints, but said the rules are in place because of coronavirus health regulations.
“No one is allowed into the driving test centres except the people taking the test and the driving tester.
“It’s to comply with Covid rules – mammies and daddies aren’t allowed in either.”
However Sinn Fein’s Darren O’Rourke said they are essential workers and called for the RSA to review the rules.
“These are essential workers as well, they are not mammies and daddies, they are workers who are entitled to some degree of dignity when they go to work,” he added.
Ms O’Donnell also claimed that the number of drug driving incidents have increased “exponentially” throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It’s been a problem for some time but because of greater detection and roadblocks, the incidents of drug driving is almost the same as drink driving,” she added.
The number of road deaths has also increased, with 10 more people being killed on Ireland’s roads this year compared to last year.
This is despite road traffic having significantly reduce during the country’s two lockdowns.
As of November 30, there have been 135 fatalities as a result of 127 fatal crashes on the roads, compared to 125 fatalities following 115 fatal crashes up to the same period in 2019.