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RSA 'categorically rejects' criticism after driving tests cancelled due to cold weather

484 tests were cancelled for weather-related reasons last week.

Image: Shutterstock/bibiphoto

Updated Feb 15th 2021, 5:47 PM

THE ROAD SAFETY Authority (RSA) has “categorically rejected” criticism of the cancellation of almost 500 driving tests last week due to cold and icy conditions.

A total of 484 tests were cancelled last week for weather-related reasons, including unsafe conditions at test centres and in cases where applicants were unable to attend because of dangerous conditions.

Under Level 5 restrictions, only those who are essential workers involved in the provision of essential services or essential retail can sit their driving tests.

Tests are carried out with windows rolled down to allow for improved ventilation inside vehicles, while face masks must also be worn be drivers and testers.

However, trade union Unite had hit out at the authority for cancelling tests during the cold snap last week, describing the move as leaving essential workers “literally frozen out”.

The union pointed to recent figures which showed that over 64,000 people are currently awaiting a test, with average waiting times of approximately 25 weeks.

It said it had received multiple reports that tests for essential workers were cancelled due to RSA testers “feeling it was too cold to roll down car windows”.

“The backlog is big enough as it is, without cancelling tests for no good reason, especially for essential workers who we all depend on during this pandemic,” Dominick Brophy of the union’s driving instructor branch said.

“Our union branch has been seeking meaningful engagement with the ministers, as well as the RSA, for months. Driving instructors and learners awaiting their tests have had enough of being messed around and treated like they don’t matter.”

However, in a statement to TheJournal.ie, the RSA said it “categorically rejects” any claims that tests were “arbitrarily cancelled”.

“Most driving tests that are being cancelled now are because roads around the test centre are potentially dangerous due to the severe weather that has been experienced lately,” a spokesperson said.

“Driving tests are only being cancelled where leaving the windows open and continuing with the test would mean that conditions would deteriorate to such an unacceptable level that it would be impossible to conduct a driving test.”

The RSA further explained that testers and applicants must ensure tests are able to be carried out safely, and that excessively cold conditions means drivers’ ability to manage the vehicle can be compromised.

“Any customer tests that were affected by adverse weather conditions will be offered a re-test free of charge,” a spokesperson added. 

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Fórsa trade union, which represents driving testers, issued the following statement:

“Driver testers are following RSA protocols, which are based on professional advice that car windows must remain open throughout driving tests for public health reasons during the pandemic.

“This is to ensure the safety of candidates and driver testers, who are in close proximity – well within the two-metre social distancing regulation – for almost an hour during driving tests.

“A relatively small number of tests have been postponed in recent times, because very bad weather including low temperatures and heavy rain and snow, made it impossible to conduct tests safely under these conditions.”

Fórsa said that driving tests have been “suspended entirely” in the UK and Northern Ireland, and in many other European countries, as part of effort to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

The union said “extraordinary” measures had been put in place to prioritise the health and safety and to contain the spread of the virus.

With reporting by Gráinne Ní Aodha.

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