26 May 2022

'Examiner took driving test with feet on dashboard'

Senior examiner sent out with examiner who had 'performance issue'

'Examiner took driving test with feet on dashboard'

'Examiner took driving test with feet on dashboard'

A local driving instructor has broken their silence regarding what they described as the' major dysfunction' surrounding Derry's Driving Test Centre.

The instructor spoke to Derry News in the wake of this paper's revelation early last month, which reported one local examiner had the highest driving test fail rate in the North, regularly failing 75% of candidates.

Disappointingly for candidates trying to book driving tests since that report, it also appears availability, outside of cancellations, has been pushed back further, to August.

“There is such major dysfunction in Derry's Driving Test Centre, I have decided my students will do their driving tests in either Cookstown or Omagh, not in Derry, until the situation here is resolved.

“I have been told by the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA), which is responsible for licensing and testing vehicles and drivers in the North, that in January it sent a senior examiner out with an examiner who had a 'performance issue.'

“I have also had students tell me, one driving examiner has conducted tests with his feet up on the dashboard of the car. It goes without saying, this is a totally unsafe practice for anyone going out on a driving test. Examiners are told they must react as quickly as possible in the event of a life threatening situation, be it to themselves, a candidate or anyone else. They are trained to react.

“My point is, how is this particular examiner going to react if their feet are up on the dashboard of a car? And, it would be the driving instructor who would be held responsible if it was the candidate's fault. Can you imagine the personal injury claim an instructor would be faced with if something happened and the examiner couldn't react quickly enough to avert it because their feet were up on the dashboard.”

The instructor said the issue about a driving test examiner in Derry putting their feet up on the dashboard during a test has been escalated to the Ombudsman's Office.

“I have been left with no alternative but to take my complaint to the Ombudsman because the DVA is saying it never happened. The Ombudsman is currently investigating the matter.

“However, if all else fails, I will be taking legal advice on this matter. It is far to serious too ignore. The potential repercussions of such behaviour doesn't bear thinking about. Not to mention the fact it is hardly the most hygienic action, especially during a worldwide pandemic.”

Elaborating on the 75% fail rate of one particular examiner, the instructor accused the DVA of using covid-19 as a convenient excuse for failing to meaningfully address a glaring anomaly.

“The DVA will still not allow anyone to sit in a car during a driving test to monitor the conduct of tests, while the wearing of masks remains as guidance, which means nobody's performance can be physically monitored.

“I kept going back to the 25% pass rate and repeatedly asked the DVA if it was happy with that statistic. The DVA replied it had put online training in place and from mid-January, it had sent out a senior examiner with an examiner who had a 'performance issue.'

“My response to the DVA was, if it has been monitoring the situation throughout Covid-19 and subsequently decided to put in online training for examiners because of the high fail rate, the training is obviously rubbish because the statistic of a 75% fail rate has not improved.

“Essentially, if the DVA noticed an examiner had a 21% pass rate, and it decided that was not good enough and actually sent a senior examiner down to train them and and also offered online training, you would imagine the statistic would improve in the next quarter.

“But the fact is, there is somebody sticking out every quarter, which is why the DVA will not release the pass/fail statistics for all of the driving test centres in the North to me. I think the DVA knows it has a persistent problem in Derry and that is why it is stalling in answering any questions.”

Regarding the lack of driving test availability, the DVA told Derry News it was in the process of completing an external recruitment competition for 16 new full time driving examiners.

It added: “A further training course is scheduled to commence on April 25, 2022 for the next tranche of recruits. Training will continue until all new driving examiner posts are filled, which will help the DVA increase the number of driving examiners operating out of the Altnagelvin and Newbuildings test centres.

“The DVA plan to have these examiners in post within the next couple of months, subject to candidates accepting the posts and successfully passing their training.”

The less than impressed driving instructor said the DVA response was 'all very well and good' but the rumoured two new examiners in Derry would take a while to work through the system.

“To me, DVA was far too late in reacting to the situation and doing anything to try and sort out the shortage of driving test slots.

“The crux of the matter is this, for two years, an examiner in Derry has been allowed to only pass up to 25% of those he examined. This meant that 75% of their candidates remained in the system. The DVA did absolutely nothing about the situation.

“It can talk about providing online training but that is a load of nonsense because the statistic should have improved but it did not.

“While no one can sit in the car and physically monitor the conduct of a test, it appears an examiner can do and say whatever they like. They can put their feet up on the dashboard or make belittling remarks to already nervous candidates, such as, 'The way you are driving there nearly killed someone.'

“I could speculate the DVA does not care whether or not is has a 'rogue' examiner because ultimately it is making money. It is like shooting fish in a barrel.”

The instructor said they were aware of driving test candidates who had left the centre, 'only to have failed their test because an examiner used the lack of monitoring under covid restrictions to manufacture major driving faults.'

“For example, I have been approached by a number of other instructors with dash-cam footage of incidents where a candidate has prevented an accident by reacting properly to someone else's bad driving and they are getting a major fault on their driving test for allegedly not moving quickly enough. During Covid-19 a major fault meant a test was immediately curtailed and the candidate returned to the test centre.

“Each DVA test centre has a poster highlighting that staff will not accept abuse or harassment and rightly so. Driving examiners are professional civil servants dealing with test candidates who generally find a driving test to be a very stressful experience and most examiners do an excellent job.

“The recruitment process for examiners is extensive and they are required to have a high level of interpersonal and customer service skill and are trained to fairly assess driving tests and give factual impartial debriefs. They certainly should not be harassed or abused.

“However test candidates are also entitled to the same level of courtesy and respect throughout the test process. It goes without saying, a driving examiner should not add any further distress to a candidate by being rude or nasty.

“Too often as instructors we have to deal with candidates who have felt absolutely crushed by inappropriate actions, and belittling remarks during their test by driving examiner/s. Many candidates who have felt harassed and/or intimidated by examiner/s have had such a distressing experience that they given up driving completely. This needs to stop.

“I would encourage anyone who has had a bad experience on test to send a complaints email to: If you are not satisfied with the DVA's handling of your complaint then the (NI) Ombudsman’s office have proved that they will certainly investigate on your behalf.”

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