After several months where virtually all driver training and testing stopped, learners are finally beginning to be allowed back behind the wheel.
Driving lessons and tests were among the many aspects of life put on hold for all but emergency workers during lockdown but as restrictions have eased moves have been made to reintroduce them.
However, the lifting of restrictions has varied across the country, leading to different timetables for learner drivers and instructors around the UK.
Here’s the latest information on when lessons and tests will resume as well as why all candidates will have to rebook their test and what changes to expect on lessons and at test centres.
When can driving lessons resume?
Driving instructors in England have been allowed to resume work since July 4, following an easing of restrictions by the UK Government. In Northern Ireland, lessons have been allowed to take place since July 6.
However, in Scotland and Wales lessons are still suspended.
The Welsh Government has said that learner will be able to resume lessons from Monday, July 27.
In Scotland there is no date for the resumption of driving lessons but the Scottish Government has said it will not be before July 31.
Gareth Llewellyn, chief executive of the DVSA, said: “It has been vital that lessons and tests only resume when safe to do so and in line with the government’s advice.
“We know this has been a tough time for the whole country including learners and driving instructors but I am pleased to announce the first step in restarting some of our services.”
When will driving tests restart?
As with lessons, different parts of the UK will see different dates for the resumption of driving tests.
In England, theory tests resumed on July 4 and practical driving tests restarted on July 22.
In Scotland, theory tests restarted on July 22. Motorcycle practical testing is due to resume on August 3 but there is still no word on when car driving tests will restart.
In Wales, theory tests and motorcycle practicals are scheduled to restart on Monday, August 3, with practical car driving tests to restart on Monday, August 17.
In Northern Ireland, theory tests resumed on July 6 along with practical motorcycle tests. However, all practical car tests remain suspended indefinitely.
While testing has restarted in England and is due to resume in Wales in August, all learners will have to book a new appointment.
When the DVSA announced it was suspending tests from March 20 it immediately cancelled all theory tests and said it would automatically rebook all practical tests scheduled to take place after March 20.
However, the DVSA has now said that rescheduled tests will not go ahead and all learners will have to rebook their practical tests.
Candidates whose test was rescheduled are now being contacted by email to confirm a new test date. Learners have been advised that any previous rescheduling should be ignored, with the DVSA advising: “If your car driving test was cancelled due to coronavirus, you were sent an email with a new date and time for your test. The new date you were given will not go ahead. This includes if the new date you were given was after the date tests restart where you live. Do not go for your test on that date.
“The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) will email you again to ask you to go online and choose your preferred date and time for your test.”
Candidates are being contacted by the DVSA in batches based on when their test should have originally taken place but it has warned the process could take several weeks.
At the moment, you cannot book a new driving test and when booking resumes drivers with a previous test date will be given priority.
If your theory test certificate has expired during lockdown you will have to resit the theory test before booking a practical test.
What changes are driving schools and test centres making?
When lessons and tests resume, learner drivers will face certain new measures to help protect them, their instructors and examiners from the spread of coronavirus.
Test centres will be issuing examiners with personal protective equipment (PPE) including gloves and face masks and they will be given training on cleaning equipment such as sat navs and tablets. You should also expect social distance measures to be in place at test centres and for testing capacity to be reduced.
Driving schools also say that instructors will be provided with PPE and required to thoroughly clean all touch points on their car between lessons.
Ian McIntosh explains: “We will of course commence teaching using only those RED instructors who choose to resume and will make allowances for those who feel the need to self-isolate. This means that all instructors and customers can decide for themselves whether or not to participate in driving lessons.
“In terms of the precautions we’ll be taking, all RED instructors will be required to follow industry best practice on PPE requirements and will be instructed to prepare the car and wipe down the steering wheel and other controls before every lesson.
“Instructors will also be trained in how to reduce viral contamination and ensure best practice for operating a safe driving lesson, and all of our customers will be asked to declare that they are symptom free before they step inside the car.”
This article first appeared on The Scotsman