Preston learner driver left distraught by Blackpool Test Centre's "absolutely bonkers" decision to fail her over pencil rubber filings in car

Learner drivers are failing their tests without even turning the engine on.

By Catherine Musgrove
Friday, 28th January 2022, 2:32 pm

Several reports have been made that examiners at Blackpool Test Centre are refusing to get in cars, saying they are too dirty.

Paul Turner's 17-year-old daughter was left distraught on Monday when her examiner failed her for having tiny pencil rubber filings on the carpet underneath the passenger seat.

The teenager from St Michael's - who has asked not to be named - had been waiting months for the test, but after Monday's experience, has not yet got back behind the wheel.

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Paul Turner, whose 17-year-old daughter failed her driving test

Her father said: "She was distraught, in floods of tears."

>>>New proposals mean those who fail driving tests might have to wait longer to rebook. Click here for more.

The girl's experience follows in a pattern of reports from across the country of tests being declined because cars don't meet new Covid-busting standards set by the DVSA (Driver and Vehicles Standards Agency).

One driver in Norwich failed because of mud in the footwell, and others have failed because of a blade of grass and even strands of hair.

The rubber and offending filings in the instructor's car

Google reviews for Blackpool Test Centre - which is handling tests from across the county due to backlogs - show at least three other people have been failed because of "very picky" examiners being unhappy with cleanliness.

Mr Turner said: "When you Google the test centre, you can see there's quite a few other people who have had the same experience.

"In my daughter's case, it was the instructor's car and it was spotless apart from a few tiny bits of rubber from when the instructor had rubbed something out of his diary.

"The filings weren't on the seat or anywhere were the examiner would be sitting. It wasn't like there were crisp packets and empty tins everywhere, it's ridiculous.

"They spent about 10 minutes trying to discuss it and sort it out, but got nowhere."

After the examiner refused to get in the car, the instructor asked for a second opinion, which was refused, then the manager was contacted to no avail.

Mr Turner said: "So she's failed without even driving the car, and there's no way of getting the money back.

"I'm incredibly unhappy about it and I've contacted by MP Ben Wallace about it, and his office said they are looking into it.

"I can't see a reason why he couldn't get into the car.

"At the end of the day, these people are civil servants and they need to be accountable.

"There's such a backlog of people wanting to take their test, and this is making it worse."

It costs £64 to take a practical driving test and there is currently a four to five month waiting list. Theory tests expire after two years, so this is also causing a problem for learners stuck on a waiting list.

Mr Turner added: "We live in a rural community, we don't have buses coming passed. She will be coming to the end of college in summer, and her job prospects will be limited if she can't drive.

"Not only that, but this is one of the most nerve-wracking things a teenager does, it's one of those stand-out moments in your life, and this has just made it worse.

"She's saved up for this for a long time, she's saved up herself for her first car, and this is so unfair."

Driving instructor

One Preston driving instructor, who asked not to be named, said: "So many driving instructors I speak to are having problems at Blackpool, it's happening all the time.

"To fail someone for this is absolutely bonkers and those responsible need to be accountable.

"At Preston, you can question decisions by the examiners and they will explain, but in Blackpool, they take it very personally."

What do the DVSA say?

When contacted by the Post, the DVSA refused to comment on any individal cases or whether examiners at Blackpool Test Centre were being investigated.

Instead a spokesman said: "DVSA’s priority is to protect our customers and staff and stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Guidance has been issued that cars used on driving tests must be cleaned before the test to lessen the chance of infection.

“Driving tests will not go ahead if this has not been followed to ensure public safety.”

What is the guidance?

The guidance for people wishing to take a test is that you must "clear and clean the inside of your car before your test".

This means you must:

· remove any rubbish or unnecessary items from the dashboard, footwells, door pockets, cup holders and seats

· clean and wipe down the dashboard and car controls

The examiner will do an additional clean of some surfaces.

The rules also state: "The car you use for your test must have at least one window open on each side throughout the test. Any combination of windows can be opened - for example, one from the front and one from the back. Wear clothing suitable for the weather."

Reviews of Blackpool Test Centre

On Google, two months ago Elizabeth Quinn wrote: "Took my son in law for a test in Blackpool today as he’d managed to get a cancellation. Followed the gov.uk guidance for Covid cleaning yet the examiner refused to take him on the test!

"Not sure what he was planning on doing on the floor of the back of the car where he’d spotted a couple of small hairs. All surfaces were clean and no rubbish or unnecessary items anywhere as was recommended."

Also two months ago, Kath Threlfall wrote: "My son got a cancellation at Blackpool for yesterday and had to do it in our car. Despite having complied with the cleaning requirements for Covid safety i.e. having removed rubbish and unnecessary items and having cleaned and wiped down the dashboard and car controls, the examiner said the car wasn't clean enough and refused to do the test. When offered the use of a hoover by a waiting parent, he then said it was too late to do the test."

Oliver Howarth wrote: "Tried doing test for second time in my own car, very picky and although just been cleaned, apparently wasn’t up to Covid regulations. Avoid this centre."