The number of drivers learning through the school of mum and dad has rocketed over the past 20 years. And it could be costing parents dear.
In new research carried out to mark Green Flag’s 20th anniversary, 77 per cent of parents revealed they teach their kids to drive, an increase of 25 per cent from 20 years ago. However, the research also suggests that over the same period, the first-time success rate in the driving test – taken annually by around 1.5 million aspiring drivers – has fallen from 48 to 42 per cent.
Green Flag’s national roadside rescue operations manager, Neil Wilson, is one parent who’s been through the nailbiting, occasionally frustrating and always expensive experience of putting a child through the driving test. His son, 18-year old Nile who is the 2014 British junior gymnastics champion, passed at his third attempt. Here, father and son share the two sides of learning to drive in 2014.
The driving instructor dad: Neil Wilson
“Green Flag’s findings suggest more people learn to drive with their parents and the survey reveals it’s not having a positive impact. We elected to have Nile learn with an instructor. We estimate he had 30 to 40 lessons. That is a significant cost burden, bearing in mind each lesson costs around £25. I also sat alongside him for about 15 to 20 hours.
“Then there was the driving test itself. That was also expensive because although the test is £62, you have to have a lesson before and then pay for the car during the test so each test can cost more than £100.
“The thing is that as a parent, you don’t know exactly what goes on in a driving test nowadays. Naturally, the driving instructor knew exactly what to tell Nile during lessons but he also drove in a different way to me. That reminded me there is a certain way to drive and that over the years, I had perhaps picked up some bad habits.
“On top of that, the instructor knew when Nile was ready to take his driving test and he didn’t take his test too early. By teaching children themselves, parents could be saving the cost of lessons. But if they then can’t get them through the test the extra cost of more lessons and re-taking the test could negate any saving they make.
“Now that Nile’s passed his driving test, because he’s been taught properly I feel confident that when he goes out in the car on his own, he really can drive safely.”
The learner driver son: Nile Wilson
“It was a funny experience learning with my dad. It was both good and bad. It was good to spend time together in the car. On the other hand I could see that he was struggling in the passenger seat!
“I think it was very important to also have lessons with a driving instructor and learn stuff that my dad might not have taught me. But with the lessons I was only doing one to three hours a week so it was important to go out with my dad to keep practising.
“The instructor was very calm all the time. With my dad, things could get quite heated! But the way I did it, by combining lessons with an instructor and lessons with my dad really worked for me.”
Expert tips for learner drivers from the Driving Instructors’ Association
• Cheapest isn’t always best when you’re choosing a driving instructor
• Combine lessons from an instructor with practising with your parents
• Don’t go for a trainee instructor. Check they have a green badge, NOT a pink one
• More lessons may be cheaper than failing a driving test you’ve taken too soon
• Remember: the aim is to produce a safe driver, not just to pass the driving test
See our pick of the best cars for young drivers here