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RSA confirms plans to allow you sit your car theory test online within a 'number of months'

A minister has said that the pandemic has had a “profound effect” on theory testing services leading to a large backlog.

File photo.
File photo.
Image: Shutterstock/photographyfirm

THE ROAD SAFETY Authority (RSA) has said it is working on making it possible to do your car or motorcycle theory test online to help clear the huge backlog that has developed since the start of the pandemic. 

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, a RSA spokesperson said it has to scale up its activities to make it possible to sit theory tests for a car or motorcycle and it will be a “number of months before that service will be operational”. 

The spokesperson also said that once restrictions are lifted and tests can be done in-person again, it expects to facilitate 25,000 tests to be delivered monthly in these in-person settings.

It comes as this week, the authority experienced delays with its new online customer portal, leading to a lag in responding to calls. 

The site had a queue for access “as a result of exceptional demand”. 

The RSA has also urged non-essential workers to cancel their driving test, saying they won’t lose their fee, as driving tests are reserved for essential workers during the Level 5 restrictions. 

Currently, those seeking to complete a theory test to drive a bus or truck can do their test online, along with those seeking a CPC (certificate of professional competency) or ADI (approved driving instuctor) exam. 

You can sit these exams remotely, but have to meet certain criteria such as having a certain calibre webcam, having no one else in the room and having no content around you that could help you cheat in the exam. 

Earlier this month, Sinn Féin’s transport spokesperson Darren O’Rourke said that driver theory tests need to be extended to all categories of those learning to drive in order to clear the backlog.

He said: “Theory tests centres are currently closed under Level 5, meaning the waiting list for this vital service is growing by the day. The latest figures we have show over 65,000 waiting on the theory test.

“There is no reason someone learning to drive a bus can sit their theory test at home, but someone learning to drive a car cannot.

“Learner drivers cannot afford to wait months for an appointment when the physical theory test centres re-open.”

The RSA spokesperson said it was indeed the plan to roll out the online theory test for those seeking licences to drive cars or motorcycles in the near future. 

“The Driver Theory Test Service has rolled out a pilot phase of a new initiative, Pro Proctor which went live on 9 December 2020,” the spokesperson said.

“This pilot offers customers a remote testing service for Bus, Truck, CPC and ADI categories.  Remote testing allows candidates to test from their home or another suitable environment once the minimum requirements for the service have been met.

“This new service has been well received and we have increased capacity in recent weeks to allow more customers to sit their bus, truck, CPC or ADI theory test online. 

“We are keen to progress and extend this service to all categories of Driver Theory Test however this involves significant changes to allow for the increase in volumes of testing across all categories.  Scaling up operations to facilitate higher numbers availing of the online option will take some time and we expect it will be a number of months before that service would be operational.”

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The spokesperson added that due to the closures under the three lockdowns so far, the driver theory test service has increased its average capacity from 12,000 appointments up to 26,000 appointments per month nationally, to cater for a backlog in demand.

Once the current level 5 restrictions lift, it’s expected that capacity will remain at this level. 

In answer to recent parliamentary questions, Junior Transport Minister Hildegarde Naughton admitted that Covid-19 has had a “profound effect” on the delivery of theory testing services and a “significant backlog has developed”. 

“The Road Safety Authority has advised my office that it is engaging with its service provider to maximise capacity to offer tests while adhering to occupational and public health requirements for when servicers are resumed,” she said. 

“Following a review of the pilot phase, I understand the RSA expect the initiative to be extended for car and motorcycles in the future. As remote testing facilitates additional capacity whilst also enabling the service to continue in the event of further lockdowns, it would be expected this would greatly help in returning the service to normal waiting times.”

Minister Naughton added that all decisions around this matter would be guided by public health advice. 

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Sean Murray

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