The waiting time to get a driving test is 25 weeks compared to six weeks this time last year, with 64,000 people waiting to sit their tests.

There are 7,737 essential workers with driving test dates; 56,730 are waiting a driving test while 28,357 have applied for test and will be eligible to take the test when they complete Essential Driving Training.  

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, RSA Communications Manager Brian Farrell said only essential workers will be able to sit their tests during current Level 5 restrictions.

The RSA has turned away people from driving tests in the last number of weeks.

"If you are looking at applying for a test right now, given the impact that this unprecedented health crisis has had on the delivery of the driving test over the last year, you could be looking at anything of up to 25 weeks waiting time," said Mr Farrell.

He added that depending on where essential workers are living in the country they could get their tests in "a matter of days or a matter of weeks".

He said the current backlog of almost six months may not be cleared until next year.

"The pandemic has had a major impact on the delivery of the driving test service we are looking well into next year before we start to tackle this backlog," said Mr Farrell.

"If you are not an essential worker you should not be attending for your driving test. For the safety of our testers, only those workers who are essential workers should come forward

"We have turned people away and it is not responsible behaviour to present for a driving test if you are not an essential worker and it is placing our testers at risk. Only come forward for a driving test if you are an essential worker.

"I don't think we should underestimate the challenges faced by the driver testers...to deliver the driver test safely," he added.

The Road Safety Authority has called for the prioritisation of its driving testers for the Covid-19 vaccine when their group is called for vaccination.

"We are liaising with the HSE to get our testers vaccinated as part of the roll-out plan and strategy. We are not asking to jump any queue. We are just asking when it does come to our turn that we are prioritised. We are talking about 140 testers providing a very important essential service to keep the economy and our health service operating."

The authority has 140 testers who can carry out six tests every day, compared to eight before the pandemic.

It is hiring 40 new testers that it expects to be "undertaking driving tests by the ended of June 2021".

The figures on the test backlogs are from a Parliamentary Question submitted by Labour leader Alan Kelly.

He said people have contacted him about the backlog and that the "volume of young people waiting needs for test need to be dealt with".

"I have had so many people on to me asking why they can't get tests. The numbers are extraordinary. The waiting times are extraordinary. I understand that we are in a pandemic. I understand that the RSA is looking at just essential workers.

"But really, there needs to be a plan here to deal with this because the length of time is extraordinary," Mr Kelly said.

He called on the RSA to hire more testers on top of the 40 it is currently recruiting.

"We need to see the RSA hire more instructors to deal with this backlog later on in this year when they are in a better position to deal with this," he said.