Amid safety concerns, police issue warning to learner drivers to check that driving instructors are qualified and DSA approved, due to spate of arrests of suspected illegal tutors
As any experienced driver knows, there are numerous challenges and dangers awaiting unwary learner drivers on the UK's roads - road hogs, drivers pulling out suddenly without checking for on-coming traffic, broken traffic lights, confusing signage, slippery surfaces, and animals loose on the road amongst others. However, according to the police, would-be drivers face their very first danger when getting into the car with their driving instructor.
It seems that an average of one instructor per day is reported to the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) on suspicion of being an illegal tutor. In fact, in a clampdown on the practice, since 2011 the DSA has conducted 30 campaigns in areas where driving schools traditionally tutor learners. Cars showing L-plates or driving school branding were stopped and checked.
As a result of DSA investigations over the past four years 39 bogus instructors have been found guilty, and a further 93 have been arrested. The discrepancy between the number of arrests and convictions is partly due to the difficulty of proving that the learner paid the instructor for lessons.
DSA registered instructorsIn the year 2012-2013, there were some 41,000 driving instructors permitted by the DSA to give lessons throughout the UK. The vast majority of these were fully approved instructors. However, trainee instructors, who are allowed to teach for six months before full registration, were also included in that number.
According to the Driving Standards Authority, all driving instructors who are registered should display a green badge for the current year, on their windscreen. This should contain a photograph of the instructor and a reference number, as well as the expiry date. Trainee instructors should display a similar pink badge.
Police and DSA concernsThe police and DSA are deeply concerned about the problem of bogus driving instructors, for a number of reasons. Firstly, there is a considerable risk to personal safety in getting into a car with an unknown person, who may, or may not, have passed a criminal check. Therefore, it is essential that all learner drivers check the credentials of anyone they propose hiring as an instructor.
Furthermore, it is clearly very important for the learner concerned that the instructor can equip him or her with the skills required to pass the driving test. A trained and approved driving instructor will be able to do that. However, there is a further concern among police and DSA officials that bogus instructors might be able to coach someone through the driving test, but not have sufficient skills to train that learner to become a safe, competent and confident driver. The authorities are worried about the long-term safety issues that this may cause.
One other problem can be that the 'instructor' may not have valid insurance on the vehicle used for driving lessons. In the event of an accident, this could have serious consequences for other road users, not to mention the learner at the wheel, who could possibly be injured, but not covered under an insurance policy.
Taking the time to check out an instructor could be a valuable investmentGiven the importance of the matter, not to mention the ease of confirming the truth, all learner drivers should take the time to check the credentials of an instructor. Does he or she display a valid green or pink badge on the windscreen? Does the photograph match the person in the car?
Any learners, who have concerns about the identity or qualifications of a driving instructor they already use, or are planning to use, should postpone the next lesson until the situation has been clarified with the DSA. Report any worries to the DSA, and to the police if necessary.
For further information:
Who can teach a learner? https://www.gov.uk/driving-lessons-who-can-teach-you
To check instructors approved by the DSA https://www.gov.uk/find-driving-schools-and-lessons#before-you-start
To report a suspected illegal driving instructor https://www.gov.uk/report-an-illegal-driving-instructor