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Theory test extension for NI learner drivers

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Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon

Driving theory test certificates for learner drivers are to be extended by eight months as a result of coronavirus, according to Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon.

However, the minister was not able to confirm a date for the resumption of practical driving tests.

The announcement confirms that any learner driver who previously passed their theory examination but was not able to take their practical car driving test as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions will not see their certificate expire.

Speaking at Stormont yesterday, Ms Mallon said: "In recognising that I cannot give a definitive date for the resumption of practical driving tests for cars, I have announced that I will be bringing forward legislative change to see an extension of the validity of the theory test certificates.

"I am very mindful that a number of learner drivers have passed their [theory] test between March and now. Their certificates may have expired so I don't want them to be further inconvenienced.

"[The] regulation will be brought forward in September and applied retrospectively.

"Essentially, what it means is that if you have passed your theory test for your car but it expires between March 1 and October 31, 2020, you will have it extended for that period. That will create some breathing space so we can get the practical tests up and running."

While the minister could not give any specific date when practical car driving tests were to resume, she confirmed that she was "working closely" with unions and examination staff to form guidance for the tests.

Peter Carmichael, owner of the NI Driving School, said that he was hoping the minister would have given some further clarity around the resumption of practical car driving tests during her remarks yesterday.

"We have been given the go ahead as driving instructors this week to go back to work," he explained.

"The question is why it is safe for us to be working and being in the car with learner drivers and not the examiners themselves?

"My feeling at the moment is that the minister is primarily being led by the unions.

"We in the driving schools feel like we have been forgotten about.

"Business is really tough at the moment because there are no certain dates we can work to from when the tests are coming back. It doesn't look like it is going to be anytime soon.

"Lesson numbers are down. Driving schools have less work. There has been a massive financial impact on us. The impact of uncertainty and no clear direction or date is huge."

Mr Carmichael made a direct appeal to Ms Mallon to show "great leadership" and provide a date for his industry as soon as possible.

He added: "We are not just teaching youngsters to drive. We are teaching the care workers, police officers, all these people. These are all the people that very soon will be helping to get us through and out of this situation."

Belfast Telegraph