Are escalating costs for young drivers a danger to all of us?

The cost of getting a licence and insuring a first car just continues to increase. Currently, a typical course of driving lessons costs around £1200, a provisional driving licence £50, booking the driving theory test £50 and the practical driving test £65 on a weekday and £75 on a Saturday.

You also need to take into account that the average person takes 2.4 attempts before passing. At the same time, insurance premiums for 17-24 year-olds have increased by around 50% in the last year.

The temptation to break the law

Faced with these kinds of expenses, the temptation to drive without a licence or insurance also increases. Not only are drivers who drive without a licence or insurance breaking the law, but the police claim that, statistically, this group is more likely to be involved in accidents - a fact that's not at all surprising, considering that an unlicenced driver is unlikely to have achieved the level of competence required to drive independently on the road.

These drivers are a danger to all road users, and very difficult to make a claim against if they do not have insurance. A young person is very unlikely to have the financial assets to settle any liabilities.

Driving test passes plummet

Recent newspaper reports have driving test pass numbers at little more than half those of a decade or so ago. Back in 1998, 1.1 million people were awarded licences; in 2010, just 517,000 people passed. In 1998 the test was extended to 40 minutes through adding additional manoeuvres.

There is evidence that the complexity and challenges of modern driving test are putting your people off taking it, in addition to the prohibitive cost of driving lessons.

Insurance costs for young drivers

At a time when car insurance costs are increasing across the board, young drivers are facing the highest increases of all. Written evidence to the Parliamentary Transport Committee's investigation into the cost of motor insurance, reported in March 2011, stressed that premiums are based on actuarial statistics (how much are claims likely to be for and how often are they likely to be made?) and historical trends, not biases against new drivers.

A young male driver can be faced with a premium of over £2500 for an average car.

Tackling the problem of uninsured drivers

It is estimated that there are a million uninsured drivers of all ages on Britain's roads. And, according to the Motor Insurers' Bureau, every year 160 people are killed and 23,000 injured by drivers who have no insurance.

This year, the British government introduced a law to enable the DVLA and the insurance industry to compare databases to identify car owners who haven't bought insurance. A letter is sent first to remind the car owner that their vehicle is uninsured and they could face a fine. If they fail to arrange for insurance, they are fined £100, and for subsequent offences, face having their car impounded and destroyed.

Even as the government and Road Policing units around the country warn unlicenced or uninsured drivers that their vehicles could be seized and crushed, the cost of a lost car could be a fraction of the cost of even a year's insurance on that car.

Finding a solution

It is very unlikely that the cost of getting on the road for the first time will decrease significantly, so we need to look for creative solutions and/or increase the penalties for driving unlicensed or uninsured. The danger, of course, is that we will exclude young people from driving entirely, with the social and economic consequences that will have.

David Williams MBE is the Chief Executive of GEM Motoring Assist, a multi award-winning provider of car breakdown cover.

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