Number of young drivers plunges to record low

Number of young drivers plunges to record low
The number of young people qualified to get behind the wheel has dropped to the lowest level ever recorded, with driving lessons and tests suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

There are currently just 2.97 million people aged 16-25 who hold a full driving licence in Britain, down from 3.32 million in March 2020, analysis of Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) data by PA news agency reveals. 

This is the lowest number of young people on the roads since records began in November 2012 when there were 3.42 million drivers aged 25 and under.

The decline is sharper than the fall in the total number of young people in Britain over the same period.

Director of the RAC Foundation, Steve Gooding, said recent rises in the number of people holding provisional licences suggest “the appetite for driving” has not diminished among young people, but they are facing significant hurdles when it comes to passing their test.

“Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by this fall in the number of full licence holders aged 25 and under in a year where the Covid-19 pandemic increased financial pressures for many, meant driving lessons and driving tests had to be suspended, and resulted in more young people being locked down in their family home,” he added.

A Department for Transport survey in 2019 found the most common reasons for 17 to 20-year-olds in England not learning to drive were the cost of lessons (41%), buying a car (31%) and insuring it (30%).

Fewer than one in five (19%) respondents said they were not interested in driving, while just 12% said the availability of other forms of transport was why they hadn’t decided to learn.  

People who did not renew licences that expired between 1 February 2020 and the end of the year had their eligibility to drive extended by 11 months due to the pandemic, though they were not included in the recent DVLA figures.

Driving lessons are expected to go ahead again from 12 April in England and Wales and 26 April in Scotland at the earliest.

Tests may resume from 22 April in England and Wales and 6 May in Scotland.

Learner drivers waiting to take a practical driving test over the course of the pandemic could also face waits of up to five months even after lockdown, due to a backlog of cancellations.

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