Learner drivers shun instructors to save money

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ONLY one in four learner drivers are taught by driving instructors, according to a survey published today.

The poll found most people preparing to sit their driving test mainly relied on family and friends to teach them.

The most common reason given by novices for not paying for lessons was they were too expensive, with costs averaging £22.50 an hour.

The survey of 2,178 drivers who had passed their test in the last two years showed only 26 per cent had been taught predominantly by a driving instructor.

Discount website vouchercloud, which commissioned the research, said: “Initially, all respondents were asked ‘Who did you do take the majority of your driving lessons with?’

“Almost half of respondents - 46 per cent - stated ‘a family member’ had taught them, with remaining respondents admitting the majority of their lessons had been with either ‘a friend’ (28 per cent) or a ‘qualified driving instructor’ (26 per cent).

If the poll is representative of learner drivers across the UK, the move away from driving instructors does not appear to have affected pass rates.

The latest figures show 46.5 per cent passed their tests between January and March - a rate which has remained virtually unchanged for at least eight years.

Vouchercloud managing director Matthew Wood said: “When you realise those who turn to their family and friends can save so much money, it’s actually a wonder that more people aren’t just using instructors for a few lessons before taking their test.

“That saving of over £600 could go towards the cost of a first car, an insurance policy or even treating yourself and those who have helped you to pass your test.”

However, that angered the Driving Instructors Association, the UK’s largest professional association for driver trainers.

Chief executive Carly Brookfield described the comments as “astonishing” and “irresponsible”.

She said: “This may promote the idea that it’s a good idea to cut the costs of learning to drive because so many other people are already doing it.

“According to the latest [UK] Department for Transport analysis, the statistics for people killed and seriously injured on the roads are up again, with newly qualified drivers being over represented.

“One of the reasons could very well be poor driver training - people short-cutting on learning to drive by using unqualified, inexperienced and inexpert friends and family to ‘teach’ them to save costs.

“What they save on not learning to drive properly, they pay out in terms of accident and repair costs, vehicle maintenance, insurance costs or, sadly, injury or loss of life.”

Motoring groups also underlined the importance of professional instruction.

RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said: “[UK] Government research has shown two main things deter young people from driving: the cost of lessons and the cost of insurance.

“Therefore it is no surprise the number of approved driving instructors in Britain has declined steadily, with about 41,500 currently on the books.

“But when young people are budgeting for the cost of learning to drive, they should not under value the benefit of getting professional instruction on how to drive safely.”

Edmund King, president of the Automobile Association, which has its own driving school, said: “Private practice helps learners get vital on-road experience so they can pass their test and go on to be safe and confident drivers.

“But it isn’t always easy to teach someone to drive, especially as private cars do not have dual-controls or a professional and patient instructor in the passenger seat.”

A spokesman for the Institute of Advanced Motorists said: “Inexperience, lack of adequate driving skills, risk taking, poor judgement and decision-making are all factors in the higher crash rates for new drivers.

“Learning with a professional instructor, backed up with practice with a parent, can give learners valuable experience.”

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