Lockdown drives learners to the school of mum and dad

Young drivers are increasingly turning to their parents for driving instruction in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, according to new insurance data.

Lockdown effectively halted all driving instruction around the country and as restrictions ease and lessons resume in some parts, figures from RAC Insurance show a record increase in motorists applying for learner driver insurance.

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The insurer saw its highest-ever weekly demand for learner driver cover at the start of June and the number of policies bought in the last six weeks is more than 27 per cent higher than pre-lockdown levels.

Learner driver insurance is short-term cover taken out by provisional licence holders. Rather than being added to a friend of family member’s policy, it allows them to take out their own cover that does not affect the main driver’s policy.

Driving lessons were stopped for all but essential workers in March and have only recently restarted. While learners in England and Northern Ireland can once again receive professional instruction, tutors in Scotland and Wales are still unable to resume lessons.

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The delays in reopening driving schools, along with huge backlogs and concerns over social distancing are thought to be partly responsible for the sharp increase in new drivers choosing to learn with a family member.

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Driving schools have reported up to a four-fold increase in pupil enquiries and lesson bookings in recent weeks as learners look to take advantage of the easing of lockdown.

The figures also reveal provisional drivers are now opting for longer policies of 36 days, up from an average of 30 days over the same period last year, suggesting those starting out are keen to make up for time lost earlier in the lockdown when they were unable to learn to drive.

Learners should still expect significant delays in booking a driving test even as test centres reopen (Photo: Shutterstock)Learners should still expect significant delays in booking a driving test even as test centres reopen (Photo: Shutterstock)
Learners should still expect significant delays in booking a driving test even as test centres reopen (Photo: Shutterstock)

RAC Insurance spokesperson Simon Williams said: “As lockdown began to be eased but learning to drive with an instructor still wasn’t possible, we saw demand for our learner driver insurance grow as this was the only way new drivers could continue to get experience on the roads at the start of their driving careers. The fact we have seen demand for policies hit an all-time high is remarkable, given just what an abnormal year 2020 has been so far.

“But interestingly, while driving schools in England have been allowed to reopen since July 4, our figures show there’s still strong demand for lessons from mum and dad, perhaps driven by fears over sharing a vehicle with somebody else – or perhaps because professional instructors are being inundated with requests for lessons and are struggling to cope with demand.

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“The impact of the coronavirus on people’s travel habits has thrown into sharp focus the essential role the car plays in allowing us to get about. So it’s understandable that so many new drivers are desperate to build their experience and confidence sat next to a family member they can trust, and then get on with taking their test. The backlog of driving tests built up since the country went into lockdown might mean they are having to wait longer than they’d like for one, but while frustrating provisional drivers can use this time to get in some extra experience on the roads.”