A record proportion of people passed their driving test in Preston during the coronavirus pandemic, new figures show – although far fewer tests took place amid a year of restrictions.
Quieter roads and "incredibly motivated" key workers taking their tests are thought to be behind the rate also hitting a record high across Great Britain in 2020-21.
However, the latest figures will do little to comfort the thousands of people nationally who had their tests cancelled due to Covid restrictions.
Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency data shows that of 2,421 practical tests at Preston Test Centre in 2020-21, 1,449 ended in success – a pass rate of 60 per cent.
That was up from 55 per cent the previous year, and the highest rate since comparable records began in 2007-08.
However, far fewer tests were undertaken at Preston Test Centre over the latest period due to Covid-19 restrictions, which saw only key workers permitted to take tests during the enforced lockdowns.
In total, there were 2,421 driving tests in 2020-21 – compared to 7,518 in 2019-20 – with 3,215 cancelled due to the pandemic.
Across Great Britain a record 50 per cent of tests in 2020-21 resulted in a pass, with the figure even reaching 59 per cent between January and March this year.
Meanwhile, the number of tests dropped to 437,000 in 2020-21, from 1.6m the previous year.
Robert Cowell, interim managing director of AA Driving School, said: “The slight increase in the driving test pass rate for the first quarter of this year could be down to a number of things including quieter roads during tests.
"In addition, during lockdowns, tests were only allowed for key workers who needed to drive for their job, this probably also goes some way to explaining the higher pass rate during these months as the candidates would have been incredibly motivated to pass."
Mr Cowell said that demand for driving tests is now "sky-high" due to the number of cancellations last year, adding many people are facing a frustrating wait.
Practical tests resumed in April, but learners face a waiting time of more than three months to book a test with 470,000 already pencilled in across Great Britain, the DVSA said.
The body has launched a recruitment campaign for 300 examiners while tests are being done seven days a week to allow 20,000 to go ahead every month.
Asked if an increase in the national pass rate was down to quieter roads, the DSVA said traffic levels are regularly reviewed to ensure traffic is at a sufficient level to test a candidate's ability.
It also said the reduction in tests could have impacted the overall rate.
Loveday Ryder, DVSA chief executive, said: "All candidates are assessed to the same level and the result of their test is entirely dependent on their performance on the day."
The data also showed the rate of success for people taking their driving test for the first time.
At Preston Test Centre, 928 out of 1,544 people passed on the first attempt in 2020-21 – 60 per cent.
That was above the national average of 51 per cent.