Macra na Feirme has called for a commitment from the government to reduce driving test waiting times, particularly in areas that are not serviced by alternative forms of transport.
The call comes the latest statistics show that over 1,200 people are waiting on their driving test in counties Cavan and Monaghan. Some 377 vehicles, driven by unaccompanied leaner drivers, have been seized by gardaí since December.
Commenting on these statistics, Macra na Feirme president James Healy said: “Currently in some rural areas, the waiting time for a driving test is five months, that is simply too long. Macra na Feirme understands why this law has been amended, but the government must show what they are doing to reduce waiting times. Both the Taoiseach and Transport Minister have accepted that current waiting times are too long, and the government is working to reduce them, but it would be useful to know how many new testers have been recruited to deal with the issue and when we can expect waiting times to normalise.”
A transport survey carried out by the Macra na Feirme Rural Youth Committee last year, found that 86% of Macra members required a private vehicle to commute to work; while just one in five said they were satisfied with public transport in their area. The same survey revealed that over a third of respondents felt that inadequate access to transport hindered their employment opportunities.
The Road Safety Authority (RSA) aims for an average national waiting time of 10 weeks, but it’s almost double that in some rural areas currently. By law, if a driver has a learner permit, they must be accompanied by an experienced driver. When they pass their test, they are then classified as a novice driver for two years but don’t require an accompanying driver.
Mr Healy concluded: “The majority of young people living in rural areas depend on their cars for college, work and day-to-day life, the law had been somewhat grey in the past about driving unaccompanied but now it is crystal clear. Similar clarity about how the government is tackling driving test wait times is essential.”
Cavan Monaghan TD Niamh Smyth has also described as “unacceptable” the current waiting times for learner drivers. She’s calling for the introduction of a mandatory maximum waiting time for the test.
“In Cavan, 432 are waiting to have their test scheduled, while 384 have had their test scheduled but are still waiting on their test. In Monaghan, 170 are waiting to be scheduled and 259 have been scheduled but are waiting on their test. According to the Road Safety Authority, on top of these numbers ,355 people in Cavan are completing their lessons and will be looking for their rest once complete; while in Monaghan 193 are currently undertaking their lessons.
“I’ve been advised that the average waiting time in Cavan is 11 weeks and 13 weeks in Monaghan. I’ve raised this time and time again since my election in 2016. In many instances, I’ve seen cases where the completion of their test is holding up taking up full time employment. It’s simply not acceptable,” slammed the TD.
“Driving is a lifeline for many young people in rural areas to enable them to get to college or go to work. Frankly, the fact that the Minister has not made any progress on reducing the waiting lists shows that he and the Government are out of touch with the needs of the younger generation in rural Ireland. There are no alternatives, no public transport, no rural taxis, and roads without cycling or walking paths,” continued Deputy Smyth.
“The fact that almost eight cars per day have been impounded from unaccompanied learner drivers shows that the Gardaí are certainly doing their job, but it also shows that there are many learner drivers who are willing to take the risk out of desperation,” she remarked.
“The Minister needs to realise that these issues exist outside of his constituency where there is no alternatives. He should commit to introducing a mandatory maximum waiting time and put the resources in place to ensure this,” concluded Deputy Smyth.