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Driving instructors are calling for access to RSA centres to use toilets and shelter from bad weather

“Driving instructors are making sure they don’t drink too much water during the day as we can’t access bathrooms,” one instructor said.

Image: PA Images

DRIVING INSTRUCTORS ARE being forced to stand outside test centres with no access to bathroom facilities during driving tests, claims a union representing instructors.

A number of instructors at the test centre in Finglas in  Dublin, have been taking part in a demonstration every Friday morning for the past two months to call for better working conditions. Now other demonstrations are taking place in Cavan, Waterford and Sligo.

According to trade union Unite, driving instructors are being prevented from accessing RSA centres while their students sit driving tests.

Instructors say they have to stand in the rain and cannot use toilets or hand-washing facilities.

Instructor Laura Broxson said she had to reduce the number of students she can take in one day as she has to return home to wash her hands between each driving lesson.

Broxson, who covers the north Dublin test routes, said: “We find it extremely inhumane that we are stuck in the rain and have nowhere to wash our hands.

Students would usually hire the driving instructor’s car for their test which can last between 45 minutes to an hour and we have to wait outside no matter what the weather is.

“Cafes are not allowing customers to sit in so we have to stand outside in the lashing rain.

“We know that hand sanitiser is not enough and I now have to plan my day as to how I can drive home before my next lesson.

“It means I can take fewer students a day and earn less money every week.

Driving instructors are making sure they don’t drink too much water during the day as we can’t access bathrooms.

Instructors are also calling for the suspension of check tests which take place with RSA examiners.

Demonstrators are also calling for the suspension of logbooks and an immediate review of Essential Driving training in light of the ongoing pandemic.

Broxson added: “I have seen parents and grandparents of students standing in the rain because they are also not allowed to sit and wait inside test centres.

I am very worried about what is going to happen over the next couple of months when the weather gets worse.

Backlog

The Road Safety Authority said today that there is now a backlog of 43,192 people waiting to be scheduled a test appointment, with 15,111 people scheduled for a test date in the next five weeks.

Waiting times have increased from around less than six weeks before the pandemic, to up to 30 weeks currently – that’s over 7 months.

Test centres and drivers are currently operating at around 75% capacity per tester compared to before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The RSA is asking those who cannot attend their driving test to ring beforehand to cancel, to help alleviate the pressure currently on the system. At the moment, 10% of people scheduled for a test don’t show up, and 6% of tests are also not conducted because of incorrect documentation, ie, an out-of-date NCT cert, tax cert, or insurance.

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Response from the RSA

A spokesman for the RSA said: “ADIs (Approved Driving Instructors) are important stakeholders in the learning to drive process.

“Unfortunately, since the driver testing service resumed after being suspended due to the Covid-19 health emergency, nobody other than a test candidate can enter a driving test centre.

“This is in order to manage our health and safety responsibilities, keep the service operating and to prevent the spread of the virus.

“We regret this is so and we hope to resume access to ADIs at a future date when the threat of the virus has passed.”

The RSA said that it was “untrue” to say that plans to develop an electronic system to replace the hard copy logbook for Essential Driver Training sessions have been shelved – the RSA said it is “to sit down” with the ADI Stakeholders Forum (the instruction industry’s representative body that deals with the RSA) to explore the use of technology to replace the hard logbook.

The RSA added: “In relation to interaction with their customers, ADIs are independent operators and like all other service providers, are obliged to follow government protocols that have been laid down for the resumption of services. ADIs need to take specific measures to manage Covid-19 in that context.”

- with reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha

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