If you’ve been thinking about learning to drive, you’ve probably heard about the challenges faced by learner drivers since the pandemic. As Britain’s biggest intensive driving course specialists, we’ve been on the frontline and heard stories from both sides — learner drivers and driving instructors.
So today, we’ll deep-dive into how learning to drive in Britain has changed since a certain virus introduced us to newfangled phrases like ‘the new normal’, ‘social distancing’ and ‘next slide, please’.
In March 2020, when Chris Whitty first popped on our screens to explain what the hell was going on, none of us could’ve predicted the utter chaos that a pandemic would cause.
To help stop the spread, the DVSA slammed shut the doors of theory and practical driving test centres. Rather than cancelling in drips and drabs, everybody with a test booked had it cancelled automatically. This caused a HUGE backlog of learners.
Pre-covid, the DVSA would usually conduct around 1.8 million practical driving tests a financial year (start of April to end of March the next year). However, coronavirus made that number fall faster than the fuel gauge on a super-charged sports car, and only 400,000 tests went ahead in the financial year 2020-2021. That means 1.1 million tests were cancelled, so demand for tests was more than twice as high once test centres eventually reopened their doors to the public.
These events snowballed and, at the time of writing this in March 2022, the DVSA is still working through the backlog with tens of thousands of hopeful drivers left in learner limbo.
So, we know test centres are feeling the pressure — but what about instructors? Is it still easy to get driving lessons, even if getting a test is like catching bubbles with a spade?
Driving tests aren’t the only thing in the industry suffering from a case of long covid. Finding an instructor with availability in 2022 is a bit like trying to find a quid you dropped under the passenger seat.
Why so difficult? With so many tests cancelled in 2020/21, driving instructors find themselves with more learners on their books than ever before. According to a study carried out by the DVSA, only 77% of instructors have returned to full-time work as an instructor after the pandemic, with many of the remaining 23% working reduced hours or leaving the industry altogether. Because of this, nearly 53% of active instructors said they were teaching more learners than usual, with the average instructor juggling 24 students at a time.
After all, people struggling to get a driving test still want lessons to keep their skills fresh. New learners are turning 17 every day, and then there’s the usual demand that has always existed.
This basically means that instructors can’t get their students passed as quickly as they could before the pandemic, which then means they can’t take new students on.
Is it a cheetah? Is it a racing car? No, it’s a learner on an intensive driving course, skipping the DVSA queues and sitting their test in a reasonable timeframe.
Then, once the theory is boxed off and passed, we’ll use that same nifty fast-track system to jump the DVSA queue and bag you a practical test appointment. Once we’ve worked our magic and got you a test appointment you’re happy with, we move on to connecting you to an instructor who'll teach you to drive and pass your test.
Why book the test before the lessons? It might sound a bit backwards, but our method is tried, tested and trusted. The most important date when getting your licence isn’t when your lessons start, but when you sit your practical test. And building your lessons around the test date avoids having a big ugly gap in between your last lesson and your test — a problem that many, many learners have had to wrestle with since the pandemic began.
You wouldn’t revise 3 weeks before an exam and then do nothing until the big day. We bring that smart approach to learning into the driving world.
Just a few of the learners who became qualified drivers thanks to an intensive course!
Working with over 5,000 incredible instructors across Great Britain, we’ve already helped 50,000 learners get on the road since 2016. Want to join that number? Book today and be on the road ASAP!