The pressure is on for many learner drivers in Oxford as a backlog could mean waiting months for a test if you fail the first time.

More than 450,000 tests have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) figures.

Those who fail this summer could be waiting up to 17 weeks for the opportunity to retake.

As a learner driver myself, I can relate to this extra pressure and drag of test backlogs.

After putting off learning to drive for a few years due to the cost of lessons and not really needing a car, I made the untimely decision to start learning to drive in the summer of 2020 - right in the middle of a global pandemic.

Read also: Driving tests backlog hits Oxfordshire learners

Although this may not sound like a smart decision, it felt safe.

Driving instructors and pupils wear face masks while in the car, hand sanitiser is available, and the car is cleaned between lessons.

Masks can be annoying, especially when learning to drive in hot weather, but they serve a purpose.

Lessons can be hard to schedule around work at the best of times but coupling that with a higher demand and several lockdowns, it did prove tricky.

I managed to have about one two-hour lesson a week until the November lockdown hit.

After that, there was only one month before the county plunged into Tier 4 and then another lockdown - meaning driving lessons were suspended yet again.

The backlog of tests was already building at this point, but I had managed to book a test in January. However, lockdown meant the test was postponed by several months.

'Flopped and failed'

I was unable to practice without access to a car and when lessons came around again there was only a week or two until my test date. Feeling under pressure I flopped and failed like many others.

I am not alone. Many learner drivers taking tests when they resumed admitted feeling ‘rusty’ behind the wheel.

Even before the pandemic only 46 per cent of tests in the year to March 2020 were passed, leading the DVSA to urge candidates they should be ‘properly prepared’.

Read also: Petition launched online for a minor injuries unit in Didcot

Now, eager to rebook a test as soon as possible, I have spent almost £20 on apps which help learner drivers book an earlier test when a cancellation becomes available.

Booking a test can be frustrating - they go within minutes and the DVSA website even suggests booking at test centres further afield in High Wycombe if none are available within a desired time.

What experiences have you had learning to drive during the pandemic in Oxford? Let us know at 

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