Learner drivers could have to wait up to five months to secure a practical driving test after lockdown ends.
Driving tests are due to resume in some parts of the UK from 22 April but the Driving Instructors Association (DIA) has warned that a huge backlog caused by lockdown will bring more frustration for student drivers.
Carly Brookfield, chief executive of the DIA, told the Mirror that many learners who have already seen their test cancelled at least once now face a wait of up to 20 weeks to secure a new appointment.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) said the wait was currently 17 weeks, not 20, and it was working to increase testing capacity.
Due to tests being suspended during lockdowns and the effect of Covid restrictions on testing, there is a backlog of around 420,000 cancelled driving tests which the DVSA is having to work through.
It recently held a recruitment drive to hire 300 more driving examiners and is using qualified office-based staff as emergency examiners.
Many learners have seen their tests cancelled multiple times and faced chaos last summer when the DVSA’s online booking system crashed under the weight of demand for appointment.
As well as those awaiting practical tests, around 380,000 people are awaiting appointments for the theory test.
Ms Brookfield said: “What these numbers don’t tell you is how many driving tests have been cancelled time and time again. There’s a huge worry among pupils that if they fail a test, how long will it be before they get a retest?”
She suggested that the DVSA could speed up the theory test process by allowing people to sit it online, adding: “The DVSA will argue that people will try to cheat. But so many testing bodies are going online using technology that monitors individuals.”
A DVSA spokesman told the Mirror: “Candidates affected by the suspension are automatically being booked on to the next available test at their chosen centre.
“As soon as it is safe DVSA will increase the number of driving and theory tests available.”
Theory tests are scheduled to resume on 12 April in England and Wales at the earliest, with no confirmed date for their resumption in Scotland.
Practical tests will restart on 22 April in England and Wales, pending government reviews. They will restart in Scotland on a localised basis, with no testing allowed until an area has moved into level 3 restrictions or lower, which will not happen before 26 April.