‘Incredible demand’ causes driving instructor crisis in Cornwall

Driving instructors in Cornwall are facing an unprecedented backlog due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Unlike other forms of education, learning to drive couldn’t easily be transferred to Zoom or adapted to meet social distancing measures.

As a result, there was an eight-month period where no lessons could take place, followed by further periods of uncertainty and restrictions.

Read more: The joys of living in Cornwall without a driving license

Driving instructors now face an unprecedented backlog that leaves them overwhelmed and unable to accommodate new students.

Tony Yeoman of the St Ives-based TJ Driving Academy said: ‘We are a mainstay to post. I have to refuse so many people. The instructor to student ratio has never been lower – there is an incredible demand.

“I’m very tense – my diary is horrible at the moment. ‘Chaos’ is the word.

Tony said his waiting lists were around four to five weeks before the pandemic. Now the waiting time is four to five months. He estimated he was practically booked until June.

It’s a similar story in many other driving schools. 1st Driving School is not accepting bookings in Camelford, Fowey, Gunnislake, Newquay, Penryn, St Columb or Wadebridge.

The school estimated that the end of May would be the first availability in Falmouth, St Ives and Bodmin.

Many people have posted to Facebook community groups looking for recommendations.

Karis Liana wrote: “Does anyone know any driving instructors who hire new students. I’ve tried three so far that aren’t.

Of those who were able to book a driving instructor, some were still having difficulty getting an exam.

A student from the University of Exeter in Penryn said: ‘It was an incredibly long waiting list and process. I had a test canceled two days before because my instructor had to self-isolate, then the next available test was in five months.

“I had also spent £90 to book the instructor for the day my test was supposed to be and did not recover.”

The Drive and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has introduced measures to reduce waiting times for driving tests. From December 6, local driving test officials began holding driving tests two days a week, along with increased efforts to recruit driving examiners.

DVSA chief executive Loveday Ryder wrote in a letter to driving instructors: ‘We respect the patience and professionalism the industry has shown throughout this pandemic, even though it has been incredibly frustrating at times considering given the many challenges we had to face.

“We will do what we can to continue to monitor the situation and keep you updated.”

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About Tracy G. Larimore

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