Mark Barclay, automotive expert from GSF Car Parts, explains the lockdown rules affecting learner drivers and shares his tips for continuing to learn while restrictions are in place. For the latest coronavirus advice and guidelines, please see the Government website.
The coronavirus crisis has affected our lives in many ways, and while cancelled driving lessons and tests aren’t top of the list, they’re understandably causing frustration for learners. Here, I’m going to explain all the rules you need to be aware of and what you can do to continue learning through the lockdown.
What are the rules about learning to drive during lockdown?
If you do not currently have a provisional driving licence, it may be a long time before you can get behind the wheel of a car. This is because the UK government has stopped accepting applications for provisional licences. It states that existing applications “may take longer than usual because of coronavirus”. You can find the latest information here.
If you have a provisional driving licence, you cannot take driving lessons with a driving instructor. The UK government’s coronavirus FAQ states that “you can only travel in a private vehicle alone, or with members of your household”.
Going out for driving lessons with members of your household is not allowed, either, as the Government is asking everyone to avoid non-essential travel and to stay home wherever possible.
Travelling to outdoor open spaces “irrespective of distance” for exercise or outdoor activity has been allowed in England since 13 May 2020. You can also drive for other “essential trips”, such as journeys to the supermarket. If you’re an advanced learner, you may be able to use these opportunities to practise driving, as long as:
- you have the necessary insurance and access to a roadworthy vehicle,
- someone in your household can act as a supervisor, and
- you display L plates on the front and back of the vehicle.
What are the rules about theory tests during lockdown?
The UK government has suspended theory tests until 31 May 2020. You can book a driving test for 1 June 2020 or later.
Please note that, despite suspensions to driving tests, theory test certifications have not been extended. So, if yours expires before you are able to take the driving test, you will need to take the theory test again. Pass certificate numbers last for two years.
You can find the latest information here.
What are the rules about driving tests during lockdown?
The UK government has suspended driving tests since 20 March 2020 and has not yet confirmed when they will be available again. This means it is not currently possible to book a driving test (although critical workers can apply for an emergency test).
If you already had a car driving test scheduled, it will be automatically rebooked on a new date for you, when possible. However, if you prefer, you can cancel it and request a refund. This might be a good idea if you’re worried that your skills are getting rusty during lockdown, and you want the opportunity to practise more or take additional lessons when restrictions are eased.
Other types of practical driving tests will be automatically cancelled and refunded, so you’ll need to manually rebook when possible.
Please note that, as discussed above, theory test certification has not been extended, so if yours expires before your driving test is rebooked, you will have to take the theory test again.
You can find the latest information here.
How can I continue learning through the lockdown?
If you want to keep your driving skills sharp during lockdown or give yourself a head-start before starting lessons, there’s still plenty you can do in lockdown.
It’s well worth getting some theory test revision in, especially if you haven’t yet passed or your certificate is about to expire. There are lots of ways to do this, from reading the Highway Code to taking practice tests online and asking your family to quiz you on road signs.
There are also videos and guides that will help to prepare you for other aspects of driving. Virtual lessons are especially useful if you haven’t had chance to get behind the wheel yet.
Learning about vehicle maintenance will also come in handy. If you have access to a car in a garage, you could spend some time tinkering — especially if someone in your household is able to show you the ropes. Otherwise, there are plenty of online tutorials and videos that will help.
The coronavirus lockdown has thrown a spanner into the works for learner drivers, but there’s still lots you can do to give yourself the best possible chance of passing once restrictions are lifted. Happy learning!