You’re learning to drive. But is your instructor fully qualified to teach you? An Automobile Association investigation shows that many L-drivers don’t realise that they’re being taught by trainees.
And their driving suffers. The AA’s findings are that learners taught by unqualified instructors need more lessons – and extra attempts – to pass their test.
This comes in the wake of an investigation by the BBC programme, Rip-off Britain, which revealed that some big-name driving schools don’t tell pupils that they’ll receive lessons from a learner – and charge the same as for a qualified instructor.
The AA says that few learners realise that unqualified instructors are allowed to give lessons unsupervised. And the number of trainee instructors has soared, more than doubling within the last two years, according to the Driving Standards Agency (DSA). One in seven instructors is now a trainee.
One in 10 L-drivers – that’s 75,000 drivers – receives tuition from unqualified instructors. And their lower pass rates mean they’ll spend an extra £1.7m on additional test fees.
Ten years ago, a major government study found that learners taught by trainees were 25% less likely to pass. Few realised that their instructor wasn’t qualified – and most paid the full hourly rate for their lesson.
The AA has just asked the DSA for updated pass rates under trainee instructors but the request was declined. AA president Edmund King said the increase in the number of trainee instructors pointed to a worsening of the problem, yet it wasn’t clear if the authorities recognised the seriousness of the situation.
The AA is now lobbying Government ministers to introduce laws so that driving schools had to tell learners at the time of booking whether or not the person teaching them would be qualified.
At present, a trainee instructor must display a pink DSA badge of the windscreen of his car but he doesn’t have to tell pupils he isn't qualified unless they ask. A qualified instructor displays a green badge. However, an AA survey of 13,000 of its members showed that only one in 20 knew the difference between the badges and one in seven thought the pink badge meant that the instructor was qualified.
DSA regulations state that trainees must apply for a tuition licence before they give a paid lesson. They shouldn’t advertise themselves as a fully qualified instructor, or set up their own school. What’s more, they shouldn’t work full-time an as instructor. The licence lasts just six months and is renewed only in exceptional circumstances. If you’re about to book with a driving school, ask whether your instructor will be fully qualified. Beware descriptions such as ‘DSA-approved’, which can also be applied to trainees and can be misleading.
The AA advises learners to look at the car they’ll be taught in. If there’s a pink badge on the front screen, your tutor will be a trainee.
The AA Driving School, What Car? Driving School and many smaller businesses do not allow trainees to give lessons without supervision.
Note: photo used with this item is a library shot and is posed by models
December 9, 2010