THE Road Safety Authority (RSA) have not made a decision on whether driving tests can resume on June 29.
This doesn’t include “urgent driving tests” for driving emergency vehicles, or medical professionals and “critical supply chain HGV drivers” as they have been facilitated in “exceptional circumstances”
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There are over 56,000 learner drivers still waiting for their driving test with 36,000 of these have finished lessons.
According to the Irish Times, this includes 36,511 who have completed their mandatory pre-test driving lessons with an instructor and another 19,817 who had not taken all their lessons before the pandemic restrictions commenced.
The RSA have said that the decision regarding the tests will made made next week.
Test waiting times were below six weeks at the start of March, but with the current backlog, it is likely that applicants will be waiting for a much longer period on a test once services resume.
PHASE THREE POSSIBILITY
On June 6th Minister for Transport Shane Ross said he did “see the possibility of truck, bus and motorcycle testing resuming in Phase 3.”
He also said there were “issues to overcome to recommence car driving tests”.
These included maintaining social distancing “as a car driving test means close contact in an enclosed space between the driver tester and the learner driver for periods in excess of 15 minutes.”
He said: “I can assure learner drivers that officials in my Department and the RSA are looking at all available options to get car driving tests started again as soon as possible.”
BACK ON THE ROAD
Meanwhile, Irish driving instructors are gearing up for a return to the roads after Covid-19 lockdown – with a rake of new safety measures.
Instructors hope to commence lessons from July 20, with some planning to steam cars, put up protective screens and use gloves and masks to get back to business.
Driving schools reopening is not specifically mentioned in the government’s phased lockdown exit plan but instructors are aiming for a July 20 return.
Automatic Lessons and IN Gear Driving School instructor Ian Daly revealed that he has been working on inputting safety measures to “adapt and be able to work” as soon as July 20 comes around.
Ian told the Irish Sun: “I’m working on fitting screens between the passenger and the driver where I could still access controls and the steering wheel while protecting myself and my pupils.
“I personally have bought a steam machine which will disinfect the car and I’ll have Dettol, gloves, hand sanitiser and I’m waiting on a shipping of good quality masks to come in.”
He added: “Hairdressers, barbers and beauticians can get back to work but they’re in closer contact to customers than we are.
“My whole argument is that society can’t run without driving lessons and we can never social distance.
“Even if we sanitised, cleaned and disinfected cars in between every lesson it’d be a huge cost and time consuming to do so properly but we’re willing to do it.
“But we obviously can’t work under social distancing.”
Kevin Horgan, Managing Director at Ladybird Driving School Limited, said businesses need to know more on how to prepare for reopening.
The director stressed that one of their main concerns is the build up of customers waiting for tests and lessons, on top of an already long list.
Horgan said: “Not only have we got the existing backlog but we have the added backlog coming like a tsunami from the lack of tests and lack of activity. It’s a mess.”
Kevin added: “We’ve looked at the possibility of virtual lessons, looking at technology to bring pupils on the routes with a qualified driver beside them, from our laptop from home.”
The equipment would attach to the mirror of the car and will allow instructors to view both the road and the pupil.
However, they would not be able to view the pupil’s feet which proves problematic for teaching pupils not to “coast”, he said.
The school are also looking into air sanitiser mobile units, which purify the air within the cars and will have wind deflectors for the front and rear windows.
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Both instructors agree that driving schools “should have been one of the first things to get back earlier” and are awaiting instructions from the HSE and government to find out where they stand in the roadmap to reopening.
However throughout all of the phases, social distancing and hygiene measures must be adhered to.
Ian and Kevin said that they are doing all they can to implement safety measures, especially as they cannot keep two metres apart from student drivers while in the car.
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