Motorists applying to sit their driving tests in Mullingar can expect waiting times almost twice as long as the wait times for Athlone.
The average wait time in Mullingar is 11.1 weeks, while the figure that applies in Athlone is just 6.4 weeks, figures from the Road Safety Authority show.
Mullingar, in fact, comes 11th highest on the list of average wait times across the 50 driving test centres around the country – although it is well behind table-topping centre Wicklow, where there is an average wait time of 17.6 weeks.
Further figures released stated that there are 450 applicants with test appointments arranged for Mullingar and a further 441 waiting to be given appointment dates.
The equivalent figures for Athlone are 273 and 313.
A further 295 applicants for Mullingar and 261 for Athlone are currently unavailable to take up their appointments for reasons such as not yet having completed the required number of lessons.
Nationally, there are 79,694 people waiting to do their driving tests. Of this number, 30,371 have appointments; 25,079 are awaiting dates and 21,154 are not available for their tests.
There are 148.94 full-time equivalent testers employed.
The figures were provided to independent senator, Victor Boyhan, who sought the details via a parliamentary question.
By way of response, Transport Minister Shane Ross said that the RSA’s target national average waiting time for a driving test is 10 weeks.
“Of the 50 test centres around the country, 33 currently meet this target, with many of those coming in under 10 weeks,” he said.
The minister said that in 2018, following his approval, the RSA recruited 52 driver testers, and there are currently a further 14 testers undergoing training.
“In addition, it is planned to recruit an additional eight driver testers in March,” he stated, adding that the RSA has an annual capacity of 260,000 driving tests.
Minister Ross went on to say that despite an increase in applications for driving tests – possibly reflecting legislative changes in relation to enforcing the existing law on accompanied learner drivers, as well as ongoing economic and demographic growth – there is a gradual reduction in waiting times as almost all test centres.
In addition, he said, the RSA provides a facility under which driving test cancellations are made available to applicants who may need an urgent appointment.
“If an applicant requires a driving test urgently for employment or immigration purposes, the authority will make every effort to accommodate them,” he said.
Senator Boyhan has stated, however, that there is a need for Minister Shane Ross to consider bringing in private testers to augment the RSA testers to make significant inroads to reduce the numbers waiting for a driving test.
“I will continue to keep the pressure on Minister Ross to address the unacceptable delays,” the Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown resident stated.