Kerry councillor Jackie Healy-Rae has warned that young drivers in rural Ireland are being forced to break the law due to the cancellation of driving tests.
It comes after the Transport Minister Shane Ross warned that driving tests would not be returning in the short term.
Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, he said that guidelines around social distancing would make it impossible to carry out driving tests and NCT tests and warned that it would be “fairly late in the day” by the time they resume.
Transport Minister Shane Ross says driving tests & NCTs are not likely to return any time soon. Are you waiting for a driving test? How is this delay affecting you? Would you like to see them return earlier? @ciarakellydoc wants to hear from you...
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Phoning in to Lunchtime Live with Ciara Kelly this afternoon, Cllr Healy-Rae said young people in rural Ireland often have no option but to drive due to the lack of public transport.
“These are people who are working in our hospitals […] we have young nurses who are going in and out of there every day and we have retail staff who are just as much on the front line as anybody else and they are being forced to break the law,” he said.
“It is a case of, ‘am I going to go and staff the wards in University Hospital Kerry or am I going to stay at home simply because I need to bring somebody with a full licence with me?
“Often they can’t come with me because they might be elderly, they might be cocooning, they might not be able to go.”
He said Minister Ross’ response to the situation is “just not good enough.”
“With every problem there are solutions,” he said.
“One solution would be, when you are doing a motorcycle test, the person is not up on the back of the bike with you, they are in another vehicle and they communicate through a headset.
“They communicate through a headset and the person adjudicating the test does so from that distance. It is a perfectly safe distance and it is a perfectly reasonable way to do it.”
He warned that the country was already facing a “huge issue” with driving test backlogs and warned that the current shutdown will leave us with an “absolutely catastrophic” situation.
Separately, Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath urged the Government to “think outside the box” to find a solution to the issue.
“We are talking about young people and some older drivers, many of whom are essential and frontline workers,” he said.
“Many have had their Essential Driver training and have been awaiting a test date before the lockdown and now they have no end date in sight.
“The Department of Transport and the RSA must find imaginative solutions to allow tests continue or there must be some leniency for those awaiting tests – particularly for those who have completed their Essential Driver Training.”
He warned that the backlogs in driver testing could see people waiting until 2021 before they can sit a standard test.