The Road Safety Authority (RSA) has defended a lack of availability for its online theory test, saying the system as it stands is only a pilot project.
Learner drivers waiting for their exam, who were delayed by Covid restrictions, hoped they could at least pass their knowledge test online in order to speed up the process. However, they have been blocked by a system that simply does not allow them to reserve a slot.
RSA told The Irish Times that the lack of availability is due to the fact that the current deployment of the system is an “online driver theory test pilot service to include cars and motorcycles on a limited basis.”
John Paul Guiheen, RSA Executive Director for Communications, said, “RSA has strived to provide service online. The new offering is online, with some 4,000 online theory tests available for all vehicle classes per month. This is deployed on a pilot basis and testing is available on a first come, first served basis. A new online service will become more widely available later in the year and, assuming the pilot phase is successful, many more customers may choose to take the test online.
RSA said that so far only the booking dates for June 2021 have been released, and the dates for July and August will be released soon.
“Theoretical tests of drivers, via the network of test centers across the country, have not been available to customers due to government restrictions under public health advice to minimize the impact of Covid-19” , Guiheen said.
“Given the large backlog of customers awaiting testing, RSA will increase the capacity of physical testing centers. This will see the number of tests in the centers rise from an average of around 15,000 tests per month (before Covid) and will rise to 50,000 per month once the service is authorized to reopen.
“Although the online pilot service does not immediately resolve the large backlog of customers waiting for a driving theory test, it has been extended to allow people to take a knowledge test remotely for all categories of vehicles. During the pilot phase, remote online testing will initially be available on a limited basis. Additional capacity will be added later in the year to allow more clients to take their theory exam remotely. “
It is estimated that around 180,000 people are currently awaiting a driving test, including many key workers. RSA’s online reservation system has tried to speed things up for these key workers, with people logging into the reservation system being asked to explain their work status, with the aim of increasing those most in need more high in the queue.
The backlog was further complicated by the fact that many of those who were ready to take the test could not complete their 12 compulsory professional lessons, while the rollout of the online theory test was further delayed by the fact that, at the moment, it is only compatible with those who work on PC type computers running the Windows 8 operating system; it won’t work with an Apple product, although RSA says this should be fixed when the wider rollout takes place later in the year.
It is not just a question of mobility that is at stake for people. Hard cash is also a problem, with many learner drivers paying excessively high insurance premiums until they get their full license.
Jonathan Hehir, Managing Director of Coverinaclick.ie, told the Irish Times: “Worsening delays in driving tests are costing many drivers between € 300 and € 600 in insurance premiums, and, without intervention, the waiting time seems likely to lengthen. over the next few months. Today we are facing a growing time bomb of driving tests in this country, the real impact of which will be felt both by motorists and by the state itself in the months and months. years to come, through reduced safety on our roads, and higher premiums for those who cannot get their full license due to delays in testing.
Hehir continued, “A recent report from RSA warned that wait times for testing could reach over 12 months without a significant increase in testing staff – it’s a crazy scenario with something as big as the driving test. Already, delays since 2020 have meant that thousands of drivers across the country have missed out on significant savings on their insurance policies, as getting your full license is a sure-fire way to lower your premiums – drivers can save between € 300 and € 600 at the time of renewal.