RAC Cars News


Learner Drivers Forced Off The Road By Rising Costs

By raccars Published

At one time, young drivers took to the wheel as soon as their 17th birthdays arrived but changing economic circumstances are being blamed for a 20% drop in the number of young people learning to drive.

With the soaring costs of motoring including increased taxation and petrol prices, higher insurance premiums and congestion charging, the current generation no longer sees passing a driving test as an automatic rite of passage. Since 2007, the number of 17-19 year olds taking their practical driving tests has fallen by nearly a fifth and the number of learner drivers in their twenties is down by about a tenth. Overall, the number of driving tests being taken has fallen by 5.3% in the past year, with 421,374 tests taken between July and September 2012.

The average cost of putting a teenaged driver on the road has escalated to £5,000, with driving lessons coming in at around £1,500, followed by a first car at an average cost of £1,200, then insurance at £1,600. This last figure in particular has gone up by about 80% since 2010, for drivers aged between 17-22.

These increasing costs are exacerbated by the wider effects of the depressed economic situation. Where young people previously gained experience in their parents' cars before buying their own, their access has decreased with the falling number of second family cars and parents unwilling to increase the cost of their own insurance premiums. Even those younger drivers who manage to get through all the initial expenses find motoring is an ongoing expense and their mileage is minimal, due to high fuel and maintenance costs.

With a 35% increase in the number of young unemployed between 2008-2011, young people find they can't afford to learn to drive without work, which can contribute to their difficulties, as access to work that might involve driving is reduced without a licence, while others may struggle to get to work without a car. Rural teenagers are the worst affected, as they have less access to public transport than city dwellers.

A further contributory factor to the lower numbers of younger drivers on the road could be changes to the UK driving test. The first time pass rate for theory tests is a miserable 46%, with stiffer tests and the cost of retakes meaning learning to drive has become nearly 50% more expensive than it was in 2005.

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