Sinn Féin TD for Meath East Darren O’Rourke has today said a new approach to driving lessons and driving tests may now be needed in light of the continuing Covid-19 pandemic.
Responding to comments from Transport Minister Shane Ross, O’Rourke said the testing backlog was having a significant impact on young people in particular and solutions, not sympathy, was needed.
“Another consequence of this continuing public health emergency has been the cancellation of driving lessons and driving tests for thousands of people across the State. It is reported that the backlog in driving tests is already in excess of 20,000. This includes young people, already disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, denied access to a test and to a full licence.
“Thousands are caught in limbo, with a full driving licence being a requirement for work for many also.
“Yesterday on national media, Minister Shane Ross said he had ‘sympathy’ for young drivers who needed to get on the road. Sympathy is not enough. The Minister should work with his Department officials, with Trade Unions and representative groups to find a solution. This is particularly important given the fact that we do not know how long we will have to live with Covid-19 physical distancing restrictions.
“Perspex dividing screens, PPE for instructors and testers, shorter driving routes and or a substantial alterations as necessary to the traditional testing routine, such as enclosed testing areas, should be examined.
“Driver and road safety should remain paramount but sympathy from Minister Ross is not enough. Driving instructors, examiners and their unions must be consulted urgently. Minister must outline what plans he intends to put in place to deal with this escalating problem.”