Learner Drivers Rising, but are they Improving?

Monday, 30 June 2014

New figures may show that the number of learner drivers taking their driving tests has increased, but pass rates and penalty points suggest that the calibre of candidates behind the wheel isn't quite up to scratch.

Figures from the Department for Transport show that 1,477,585 practical exams were taken during the 2013/14 financial year (April to April), a 2.9% rise from the previous 12 months. While the increase may only seem marginal, the figure comes after a downward trend that has seen the total number of practical tests fall by 16% between 2007/8 and 2012/13.

Experts at The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), which administers driving tests and training schemes throughout Great Britain, say declining birth rates in the 1990s mean that there are now fewer people in the 17-20 age bracket, leading it to believe that this downward spiral would continue.

The agency believes that the 2008 recession may have caused many to avoid the expense of learning to drive, though, with more people choosing to defer their tests to later life. This explains last year's bumper numbers, and also suggests that faith in the economy may be growing.

However, despite the impressive figures, not all statistics demonstrated the same upward trend. In car practical tests taken from January to March 2014, pass rates actually fell by 0.3%, while the decline for theory test pass rates came in at 1.9%.

More worryingly, perhaps, is separate data published in Motoring Research, which shows that 54,000 learners have already picked up penalty points on their provisional licences, and around 30% didn't even realise they could get penalty points at all.

Digging deeper with a Freedom of Information request, the study found that a staggering 22% of drivers have picked up endorsements before they even passed their test.

Of the points amassed by the UK's learner drivers, speeding is by far the most common reason. In fact, 60% of learner drivers with points have a speeding offence among their haul. Even more shocking is the number who received points for driving without car insurance. 33% of those with points had been penalised for not having proper car cover, which is bound to make current motorists more wary of learners on the road.

1. www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/323937/driver-rider-q4-2013-14.pdf
2. www.motoringresearch.com/car-news/learner-driver-shock-54k-already-penalty-points-0626945047

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