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'We're working on it': Taoiseach admits there are unacceptable delays in driving test wait times

Some people are waiting over 20 weeks to get a date for the driving test.

Image: Shutterstock/Simula

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR acknowledged in the Dáil today that driving test wait times are too long. 

Kerry TD Danny Healy Rae raised a number of issues relating to drink-driving laws, specifically the new rule which allows the owner of a vehicle to be penalised if a learner driver is caught driving the car unaccompanied. 

The independent TD said parents in rural areas are being forced to drive their children to to college early in the morning, and collect them late in the evening as a result. 

“There are parents and mothers out at 5am driving their sons and daughters to work or school. They are out again in the evening to bring them home and take them out to football training. They have to go out again at 9pm to bring them home… That is what the government has done to the people in rural Ireland. They must also wait nine months for a driving test,” he said.

He added: 

The government promised it would do something to speed up the driving test. Youngsters have been waiting anything from six to nine months to get a driving test. As a result, parents are out in the morning and at night-time to keep the family together and to keep the children going.  
The government has done massive harm to people in rural Ireland.  It has affected good people who never did any harm, never did anything wrong on the road and never caused a fatality… Its members have abandoned the people who traditionally voted for them over the years.  

‘Unacceptable’

Speaking in the Dáil today, Varadkar said the wait time for driver tests is not acceptable, with varying wait times around the country.

“I absolutely acknowledge that there are unacceptable delays faced by people getting driving licences. It varies in different parts of the country but it is something we are working on. We want to get that waiting time down to a reasonable level as soon as we can,” said the Taoiseach.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) said it aims to have a national average waiting time for a driving test of no longer than 10 weeks. 

“Our ability to meet this target depends on the number of applications received.    Accordingly, the average waiting time in driving test centres may vary above or below this 10-week target,” it states on its website.

However, areas such as Thurles average 20 weeks, while Shannon and Skibbereen is over 19 weeks, and Cork is over 17 weeks. 

Earlier this month, The Irish Independent reported that letters and representations from politicians on behalf of constituents looking to sit their driving tests as soon as possible is having an adverse effect. 

Rural transport

Healy Rae also raised the issue of the new drink-driving laws introduced last year and the promises for increases in rural transport. 

At the time the legislation was making its way through the Dail last year, concerns were raised about the impact it may have on rural Ireland, with some TDs stating it would increase the isolation of the elderly. 

Transport Minister Shane Ross, the Minister of State for Transport Brendan Griffin, and Fine Gael’s Martin Heydon promised there would be an increase in rural transport, such as the extension of the RuralLink scheme, which provides bus transport for out of reach rural areas.

Healy Rae also raised the of Garda checkpoints stating:

“People are being checked going to and coming from Mass. Last week an elderly man was stopped coming home from Mass with his invalided wife.  

“What is going on is absolutely ridiculous. People taking their children to school in the morning and women who never drank are being stopped. They are outraged at what is happening. The Government has turned the people against the Garda with its instructions and directions.  That is what is happening.”

Road fatalities

Replying, the Taoiseach said, “When we talk about road traffic legislation we should never forget why we have those laws. That is because of road safety.

“When we talk about road traffic we should never forget the people who have died on our roads and the families that have been left behind. That is the whole point of having road traffic laws. It is why we have them. It is why they have been strengthened in recent years, and they have worked. Last year fewer people died on our roads than in any year since records began. It is in rural Ireland that the lives are being saved. That is historically where most road traffic deaths have happened.”

He said he totally appreciated that the new rules have made it harder for many people to get out and about and to socialise if that involves drinking alcohol, explaining that is why the government has invested in Rural Link.

However, the Taoiseach conceded that in some cases, the uptake and the demand for these services has been very poor.

“We need to look at other solutions and we are doing that, particularly around rural taxis and hackney licences. We are trying to liberalise that system and make them more available, particularly at night-time and on weekends,” he said.

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