Almost 2,000 waiting for driving test
Almost 2,000 people in Kerry are on a waiting list to sit their driving test - one of the longest waiting lists in the country when population is taken into account.
Road Safety Authority (RSA) figures reveal that 1,896 drivers are waiting to take their test in Kerry, despite the fact that there are six testers in the county. Indeed, Kerry is better served than most counties; Meath, for instance, has just one tester, yet its waiting list is just marginally shorter than Kerry's.
Killarney's list has 860 drivers waiting. In Tralee, the number is 1,036.
Jackie Healy-Rae Junior, who will be running in the local elections in the Castleisland district, obtained the figures from the RSA and has lambasted the authority for its lengthy waiting times for tests in Kerry.
"I think it's a disgrace that people in rural areas, where they really need to get on the road as quickly as possible, are having to wait 10 or 11 weeks, like they do in Tralee and Killarney, to sit their test. You should be able to sit your test within five to 10 days of booking it. I don't care how many driving testers it takes to do that."
The Kilgarvan man said he can't work out any pattern when it comes to a county-by-county analysis.
"In Sligo, a county of about 65,000 people with a waiting list of around 550, they have seven testers. Meath is a commuter belt county with a very long waiting list - and they have only the one tester.
"I'll give credit where it's due: the RSA has taken on 66 new testers since the start of 2018. But that'd mean there would have been less than 100 testers in the country before that.
"Is it so they just can't get testers? I've never in my life seen an ad looking for testers, even though the RSA seems to have plenty money for ads. I've never seen an ad looking for testers."
The so-called 'Clancy Amendment' can see cars being driven by unaccompanied learner drivers seized, while the car owner who allowed the learner driver on the road can be fined. Mr Healy-Rae said he wouldn't be so opposed to the new regulations if learner drivers didn't have to wait so long to sit their test.
He suggested students from first to third year be introduced to the theory side of driving and a model car be provided to teach students about basics such as dipping for oil and changing tyres.
Brian Farrell of the RSA explained to The Kerryman that testers are deployed to areas around the country based on demand. He added that, of those waiting on a test in Kerry, more than 1,100 have received test dates. The rest are split between those waiting on dates and those who are not yet entitled to take their test.
He also explained the lead-up to and implementation of the Clancy Amendment had seen an increase in the number of drivers applying for tests but that added resources have seen waiting times tumble regardless..
"In 2018, the RSA recruited 52 testers, and 14 testers will be hitting the pitch very shortly," he said.
"At the moment, we have about 148 full-time driver testers available, and waiting times are coming down.
"At the end of January this year, the average wait in Tralee was 16 weeks. Now it's 11. In Killarney, it was 18 weeks. Now it's 10. And I'd expect it to continue that way. I'd like people to keep this in mind, that they should be prepared to get their test sooner than they might be expecting.
"Between Tralee and Killarney, there were 36 no-shows for tests last week; that impacts our productivity. If people make cancellations in good time, we can reassign the slots to someone else.
"We've been throwing the kitchen sink to tackle the waiting lists, and it has been working very well."
Meanwhile, in a recent letter to Kerry County Council in response to a Notice of Motion about test waiting lists, Minister Shane Ross noted that applicants can apply for tests in other counties. But Cllr John Francis Flynn feels this would not be helpful to much of the county.
"For someone in Valentia, for example, they'd have to travel a very long way to get to a centre outside Kerry," he said, adding: "It's not viable".
"I'd suggest, particularly for people who might be in college, it would be good to do tests at the weekend as well.
"Those students have enough to be worrying about with their studies without having to try and take time off during the week to do their driving tests.
"The Minister has also noted that the RSA will do its best to accommodate people who need to sit their test urgently, say for work purposes, so I'd like people to take note of that," Cllr Flynn added.