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The committee heard concerns about trainee paramedics not being able to attend their college course if they don't get lessons and driving test completed in time. Leon Farrell
essential workers

Calls for doctors, nurses and trainee paramedics to be allowed continue with their driving lessons

There is a huge backlog for both theory tests and driving tests.

DRIVING INSTRUCTORS ARE facing a huge backlog of lessons as the number of people on the waiting list continues to grow, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

There have been calls to allow all essential workers and those who need a licence for work purposes to continue with their driving lessons and sit the driving test.

The transport committee was told that essential workers including doctors, nurses and trainee paramedics have not been able to sit driving tests because of the ongoing restrictions.

There is a huge backlog for both theory tests and driving tests, with around 98,414 learners waiting for a driving test, and 54,000 people waiting for a theory test.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) said there will be an 40 additional testers in June to help clear the backlog.

The authority said they hope to receive clearance for a further 40 during the summer.

This would be a 58% increase in the driving tester work force.

Dominic Brophy, chairman of Unite ADI (Approved Driving Instructors) Union branch, said the backlog is a huge problem which needs resolved.

Brophy said that “intelligent use” of the scheduling system would help clear the backlog during Level 5 restrictions.

He was also critical of the restrictions on driving instructors using RSA facilities while students sit driving tests.

“To provide a safe place for people to wait is simple courtesy, people are being left wandering around industrial estates while their test candidate or son or daughter has gone out for a test,” Brophy added.

“That’s not a safe thing.

“There’s no opportunity to wash their hands or shelter from the weather.”

Fianna Fail TD Cathal Crowe said that students enrolling in the paramedic course at the University of Limerick have to have a driving licence.

“Even if they got a theory test in April or May, there is a legal requirement that you have to wait six months after your theory test before you can get your full licence,” Crowe said.

He added that some students will not be able to take up the course offer in August as a consequence.

“We will see the knock-on effect in four years’ time when there will be a huge shortage of paramedics and that will have an impact on the system,” he added.

The Unite ADI Union branch was formed last August and has some 1,000 approved driving instructors registered.

“We are exceeding our (membership) expectations and expect that number to increase post-Covid,” Brophy added.

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