Original article from Kent Live
The driving test pass rate increased in Kent during the COVID-19 pandemic, new figures have revealed.
Even though fewer tests took place due to restrictions imposed to control the virus, figures from the Driving and Vehicles Standard Agency say of the 19,931 practical tests taken in Kent during 2020, 9,815 were passed.
This a success rate of 49.2%, which was a slight increase on 2019's pass rate of 46.4%.
However, far fewer tests took place in 2020 compared to 2019 which saw 43,285 tests across Kent, as during the lockdowns only key workers were allowed to take them.
Of the eight test centres in Kent, all but one saw the pass rate increase, as Herne Bay went down from from 44.4% in 2019 to 42.8% in 2020.
The test centre with the biggest improvement ended up being Maidstone, whose pass rate went up by 6.7%, whilst Tunbridge Wells had the overall best pass rate of 2020 with 55.6%.
In the UK as whole pass rates went up despite there being a 72.7% decrease for practical tests in April 2020-March 2021 compared to April 2019-March 2020.
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James Smith, co-business owner of the Lighthouse Driving School in Folkestone, suggests that determination of pupils wanting to get behind the wheel could be a reason behind the rise.
"We've seen a massive increase in the amount of people wanting to drive and the dedication to get driving," he said.
"It could also just be a massive influx after the pause of driving tests themselves. Suddenly they get going and more and more people want to get out on the road."
James added that the demand for tests could also be because of people not wanting to use public transport due to the restrictions that COVID-19 imposed, as well as care workers needing to get between different homes quickly.
It is estimated that the time taken to clear the backlog of tests required could take between 18 and 24 months.
As a result the Lighthouse Driving School went from surviving on government handouts during lockdown to being inundated with requests.
"It's been the busiest we've ever seen it," said James
"I've never seen anything like it. We've got about 70 people on a waiting list, so it's absolutely nuts.
"[There are] not enough instructors to meet demand, and again I'm just guessing that it's because people want to get driving now."