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Warning over illegal driving instructors

There is a rise in illegal driving instructors across the UK as the waiting list is getting longer and longer, as people deal with the aftermath of the pandemic.

Sean O'Neill

Warning over illegal driving instructors as long waiting lists for lessons continues

Pent up demand for driving lessons and tests during the pandemic means learner drivers continue to face long waiting times before they can get behind the wheel.

In fact, 66% of instructors say driving test waiting lists haven’t reduced at all over recent months, according to a survey by Young Driver.

In 2021/22, there were 38,839 approved driving instructors in Great Britain. The number of registered driving teachers has fallen year-on-year consecutively since 2011/12 when there were over 46,000, meaning demand often outstrips supply.

James Armstrong, CEO of learner-driver insurer Veygo has warned that ongoing delays and the scramble to find available driving instructors could mean young people sign up with illegal instructors who are not approved by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

According to exclusive data obtained by Veygo via a Freedom of Information request, the DVSA has received 323 reports of illegal driving instructors over the past five years. And it’s likely many more go unreported.

Over the same time, almost 1,000 driving instructors were removed from the DVSA’s approved register for not attending standards checks, poor standards check performance or not meeting ‘fit and proper’ reasons.

What are the risks to learner drivers?

Section 123 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 states driving instruction for payment can only be given legally by registered or licensed persons.

There are two types of licensed driving instructors – a Potential Driving Instructor (PDI) who will display a pink badge and an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) who will display a green badge. Both can legally teach you how to drive after passing tests of their own.

Anyone can get hold of vehicle branding, a roof sign and dual controls that makes them look like a legitimate driving instructor. They may have previous experience as an approved instructor or have never been through any professional training. Both types of unregistered driving instructors are breaking the law.

Learner drivers taking lessons from unlicensed driving instructors face several risks. They may miss out on key driving skills due to low quality teaching, or from adequate insurance protection in the case of accident or injury behind the wheel.

An illegal instructor will also not have a valid CRB check and therefore may have a criminal record, putting your personal safety at risk.

There are also no guarantees that the vehicle you’re learning to drive in is roadworthy or safe. Finally, even if you complete your lessons, your practical test could be cancelled on the day when appropriate checks are run, unfairly penalising you.

How to avoid illegal driving instructors

  • Always use trusted online sources when researching driving schools or instructors and never rely on word of mouth or social media pages without carrying out your own checks
  • Visit the DVSA’s online directory of approved driving instructors to find those local to you. If a driving school or instructor isn’t listed on the directory (it isn’t compulsory) you should contact the DVSA directly with their name and ADI number. If a PDI is teaching you to drive, that’s perfectly normal as it means they are actively working their way towards taking their final test to obtain their ADI licence
  • Before getting into an instructor’s vehicle check that they are displaying a valid pink or green badge with their name, a head shot, date of expiry and a unique instructor number. If an instructor is replaced or covered for a session due to illness or holiday, make sure to repeat your checks
  • Never get sucked in by cheap lessons or special offers. If the price is too good to be true, based on research on costs in your local area, then it probably is.
  • Always report any suspicions directly to the DVSA here.

One final way to ensure you’re not learning with an ilegal driving instructor is to sign up for Veygo learner driver insurance, it allows you to get behind the wheel with a friend or family member and practice with them.

Sean O'Neill
Sean O'Neill

Having studied English literature in university I now work within motor insurance and work closely with data teams to understand market trends in short-term car insurance and hot topics that might be helpful to car drivers out there. I'm currently learning to drive and taking driving lessons to get out on the road by myself soon!

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