Stand-in driving instructors risk breaking the law trying to help lockdown learners

7 Jul, 2020

As lockdown measures continue to ease, new drivers in England can now start taking driving lessons and theory tests again (from 4th July) and practical tests from 22 July.

However, with only key workers able to take driving lessons and tests since 17 March and the DVLA only starting to take applications for provisional licences again since mid-June, GoCompare Car Insurance experts estimate there may be 370,000* new drivers held back by lockdown and now keen to get behind the wheel.

With a four-month backlog to tackle, booking lessons with one of the UK’s 40,000** professional instructors may be difficult, and some learner drivers may also be reluctant to share a car with someone outside of their usual ‘bubble’. If parents or friends are happy to become stand-in instructors, they will need to know the rules regarding teaching someone to drive to ensure both they and their student stay on the right side of the law and their insurers.

The rules of the road

  • The learner must be at least 17 years old and hold their own provisional driving licence
  • Supervising drivers must be aged 21 or over and have held a full driving licence for at least three years
  • The supervising driver and the learner must both be insured to drive the car
  • The vehicle must display L-plates front and rear, which can be removed when not being driven by a learner
  • If you are supervising a learner driver you are legally in charge of the vehicle but both of you can be penalised depending on the infringement. If the learner breaks the speed limit they may be fined and receive penalty points on their licence. However, if you are using your mobile phone whilst supervising a learner driver, you will be the one prosecuted.
  • You can’t take a learner driver on a motorway – only approved instructors in cars fitted with dual controls can do that
  • You can carry other passengers (though it’s best to avoid distractions)
  • You cannot be paid to give lessons unless you’re a qualified professional instructor

Being properly insured

Using your own car to teach a learner to drive

You can add a learner driver to your own insurance policy as a named driver. Your insurance premium may increase, and you may have to pay an administration fee of up to £62.00*** to amend the policy depending on your insurer.

Using the learner driver’s own car

If the learner driver has their own car they must be insured as the main driver. Arranging insurance in your or anyone else’s name as the main driver in order to keep the cost down is known in the industry as ‘fronting’ and is technically insurance fraud. Doing this will invalidate a policy and could lead to criminal charges and difficulty obtaining insurance in the future. If you are supervising a learner driver in their own car you must be added to their policy as a named driver. Adding an experienced driver with a good driving record to a learner’s insurance policy may help to lower their premium.

What is learner driver insurance?

Some insurers provide what’s known as learner driver insurance. This is a policy taken out in the learner driver’s name for their own car but with one or more additional named drivers who may supervise them whilst learning. The policy may run for a set period or until the learner passes their tests to gain a full driving licence. Depending on the type of policy chosen, the premium will either increase once the learner passes their test or the policy will end, and a new insurance policy must then be taken out to cover them as a qualified driver who is no longer being supervised.

The advantages of learner driver policies are that they are typically considerably cheaper than standard policies and benefit from lower excesses while the driver is learning.

For example:

Comprehensive cover for a 17-year old learner driver with a provisional licence living in Norfolk PE32 postcode driving a 2014 Citroen C3 Vti 82 1199cc, with two experienced named additional drivers:

  • Learner driver insurance – £290.01 pa and a total excess of £200.00
  • Standard insurance – £570.08 pa and a total excess of £600.00

In both cases premiums will increase when the driver gains their full driving licence. This is to reflect the added risk of being a newly qualified, unsupervised driver. Failure to inform the insurer when the policyholder passes their practical test and gains a full driving licence will invalidate the policy.

Insurers such as Collingwood, achoice and Sterling offer annual learner driver policies and can be found on GoCompare. Short-term learner driver insurance is also available. As always with car insurance, it is best to shop around to find the best deal for the insurance you need.

Experts at GoCompare have produced useful guides for new drivers and stand-in instructors with information on insurance and how to keep premiums down, a list of the best cars for new drivers and lots of other useful tips to help new drivers get on the road. You can read them here:

Lee Griffin, founder and CEO of GoCompare, commented, “We think there could be as many as 370,000 potential new drivers keen to start learning, many of whom could find it difficult to book lessons as instructors deal with the backlog.  In many cases, family and friends may well offer to step up to get them started. However, as well as having good driving skills and patience they also need to be aware of the rules for supervising new drivers and the insurance implications for both them and the learner. Failure to adhere to both could lead to fines for traffic violations or unknowingly invalidating their insurance, leaving them open to huge claims costs if they have an accident and even a criminal record for insurance fraud.