The head of a driver training school says the RAC has ‘grossly underestimated’ the cost of learning to drive in a recent press release issued by the motoring organisation.
In the press release (29 July), which relates to a drop in the number of newly qualified young drivers, the RAC’s Simon Williams says: “The cost of lessons and the number required to reach the necessary skill level to take the test has presumably played a part in this.
“With driving lessons now costing around £25 an hour and students possibly requiring 20 to 30 at a cost of approximately £500 to £750 it clearly can be a very expensive rite of passage.”
However, Rob Tillier, owner of Accelerate Driver Training, says the actual cost of passing the test is likely to be ‘2-3 times higher’, and the cost of becoming a safe driver spirals to ‘4-5 times those figures’.
In response, the RAC says it recognises the figures it quoted were ‘probably close to the minimum cost of learning to drive’, but that it ‘neither wanted to underplay the cost of learning to drive, nor deter young people from learning due to the expense’.
Mr Tillier quotes DVSA figures showing that the average new driver takes ‘45 hours of professional tuition and 22 hours of private practice before passing the practical test’.
He says driving lessons ‘can cost anything between £20 and £35 per hour’, and estimates the average cost in south east England to be £28 per hour.
Rob Tillier said: “Using £30 per hour and 35-40 hours of lessons for the average 17-19 year-old, equates to a fee of £1,050-£1,200.
“Add to that test fees and learning resources and time for instructors to take candidates to test those figures extend to £1,350 – £1,500.
With a 56.8% pass rate in tests taken by 17 year-olds from April 2016 to March 2017, almost half are having to retake the test at an additional cost in the region of £200 – £300 for additional lessons and test fees and accompaniment to test.”
In an email to the RAC, Rob Tillier said: “My concern is that with such broad circulation from a ‘trusted’ source, such as the RAC, the general public, road safety professionals, politicians and the broader community are being misinformed.
“That leads to unrealistic expectations and a massive challenge for driver training professionals to overcome those expectations in getting young people and their parents to spend an appropriate amount of money to get youngsters to become SAFE drivers, bearing in mind that the practical test assesses a minimum standard and that the way it is structured allows bad/unsafe drivers to pass.”
In response, Simon Williams, RAC Black Box Car Insurance, said: “The driving licence figures we analysed very clearly show a decline in the number of provisional licence holders going on to become fully qualified drivers.
“The cost of professional driving instruction is obviously a big part of this as many learners and their families may not be able to afford the number of lessons required even to reach the level required to take the test.
“We recognise that the figures we quoted are probably close to the minimum cost of learning to drive and many learners will require more lessons than the number used in our costings.
“We neither wanted to underplay the cost of learning to drive nor deter young people from learning due to the expense as we know from research that being able to drive provides independence and facilitates working lives.
“The RAC is all too aware of the importance of new drivers becoming safe drivers as the Government’s reported road casualties statistics unfortunately tell a very sad story about our youngest drivers.
“This is why we are so strongly advocating black box telematics-based insurance policies as they not only make driving more affordable after passing the test, they also help new drivers to become safer by tracking their speed, braking and acceleration."