Last Updated: 26/05/2021
Covid lockdowns were disastrous for learner drivers as driving tests were not allowed to take place. In the UK, a long backlog has developed and many learners find themselves in a queue as instructors try to cope with the demand for lessons and test appointments.
Some learner drivers like medical student Zain Ahmad (featured in main image above) say they have been in touch with 50 instructors to book lessons without success. The 20 year-old found it impossible to find any instructor who he could sign up with because many had retired due to the pandemic or just did not have the space to book him in, even for just a few hours preparation for his test. He spent hours and hours on the phone trying to find an instructor who would take him on.
Eventually Zain did find an instructor but he too was unable to keep the lessons going because his income during lockdown was not sufficient.
Ella Richardson, another student, ended up having to spend £2000 more on lessons because of the long drawn out time taken, not to mention the extra £500 she had to pay to extend her driving insurance. Ella’s main worry is that she will still be learning next year when she is doing her A-levels.
The thought of having to concentrate on exams whilst preparing for her practical driving test fills her with dread. She said:”I don’t want to be concentrating on preparing for my practical driving test when I’ve got my exams to be revising for.”
One driving instructor Aaaron Ellmer, based in Milton Keynes expressed his dismay at the situation caused by Covid lockdowns. He said: “I’ve always been busy, but I’ve never experienced anything like this before. The hardest challenge for me really has been learning to say no to people”.
This unprecedented situation has caused great distress and anxiety for many instructors who are having to cope with very upset pupils who know that a test failure will mean a long wait until they can get another booking.
Lynne Barrie, chair of the Approved Driving Instructors National Joint Council, is concerned that some learners have booked a test before they have begun their driving lessons, placing added pressure onto themselves and their instructors.
Her main worry however is that some instructors are trying to book every student they can into their tight schedule which means the hours they are working have greatly increased. “From a safety point of view, that becomes quite unsafe and high risk”, she says.
Since 2013 the number of registered driving instructors in the UK has declined by 13% according to Marmalade, the young drivers insurance company. This shortage of instructors, combined with the demand for lessons could mean a massive hike in the cost of lessons in the next few months.
Aaron has thought about putting the price of his lessons up to try to recover some of his lost earnings since Covid lockdowns began, similar to the way many other industries have tried. He says he considered charging more “because I know a lot of places in general, in every industry, have taken their prices up to try and make some money back after the amount we’ve lost”
Increasing his hourly charge by £1 for new learners and keeping the prices the same for his existing students seems the best way forward for Aaron.”They’ve stuck with me through 10 months of no lessons and have come back to me, so the least I could do show them respect and give the same that they had before.”
Image Credits: BBC