The number of young people with a driving licence has reached a record low, according to data from the DVLA.
Just 2.97m people in Britain aged 16-25 held a full licence as of last month.
That is down from 3.32m in March 2020, and is the smallest total according to records dating back to November 2012 when there were 3.42m.
AA president Edmund King said the drop is partly a result of driving lessons and tests in Britain being prohibited for much of the past 12 months due to lockdowns.
He said: ‘This has been a very stressful time for many learners and indeed their instructors who were unable to work.’
King claimed the disruption has been ‘exacerbated’ by the government’s refusal to extend the maximum two-year period between passing the theory exam and taking a practical test.
The earliest date for restarting lessons is April 12 in England and Wales, and April 26 in Scotland.
Tests may be permitted from April 22 in England and Wales, but learners in Scotland must wait until at least May 6.
Number of young people with a full licence as of March 2021
Kind said there is ‘massive pent-up demand for both lessons and tests’ and predicted that bookings will ‘skyrocket when instructors can teach again’.
A 2019 Department for Transport survey found that the most common reasons for 17 to 20-year-olds in England not trying to get on the road was the cost of learning to drive (41 per cent), buying a car (31 per cent) and insuring it (30 per cent).
Fewer than one in five (19 per cent) respondents said they were not interested in driving, while just 12 per cent said the availability of other forms of transport was the reason they were not learning.
The pandemic has seen more young people look to personal transportation again, says Auto Trader.
Writing for Car Dealer on Friday, Auto Trader boss Nathan Coe said the classified search website had seen a marked return of young people searching for cars again.
He said: ‘Over the last year, we’ve seen a surge in younger people looking to buy cars.
‘Prior to the pandemic, many commentators had written off young people from wanting to own their own car themselves, opting instead for more flexible alternatives like car sharing models.
‘However, over the last 12 months, we’ve seen an increase from 13 per cent of our audience coming from 18-24 year olds to 18 per cent, and in research we commissioned recently, 22 per cent of 17-24 year olds also said they have missed out on taking their driving test during lockdown.’
Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, said recent rises in the number of people holding provisional licences suggest ‘the appetite for driving’ has not diminished among young people – but he admitted they are facing significant hurdles to passing the test.
He said: ‘Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by this fall in the number of full licence holders aged 25 and under in a year where the Covid-19 pandemic increased financial pressures for many, meant driving lessons and driving tests had to be suspended, and resulted in more young people being locked down in their family home.’
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