Almost 1,000 fake driving instructors have been reported in the last five years to the body which overseas lessons.
A Freedom of Information request has revealed that 961 allegedly illegal instructors have been reported to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) since 2014.
Instructors must be registered with the DVSA and have passed a series of special test and background checks in order to charge for lessons.
Doing so without DVSA approval is a criminal offence under the Road Traffic Act.
Taking lessons from an unlicensed instructor either intentionally or unwittingly is also potentially dangerous and could prove costly.
Not only could you be missing out on key instruction and information but you have no guarantee that your “instructor’s” vehicle is roadworthy and, should you be involved in an accident, you’ll have no insurance.
You also run the risk of encountering an instructor who has not been subject to the proper police background and criminal record checks.
Low conviction rate
There are around 40,000 approved driving instructors registered with the DVSA and it says that it “investigates all reports of illegal driving instruction and seeks the strongest possible punishments”.
However, the figures obtained by Hippo Leasing show that prosecutions are extremely low, with just 18 convictions since 2014.
Section 123 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 states driving instruction for payment can only be given legally by registered or licensed persons but it can be hard to prove that money has changed hands between student and teacher.
How to spot a dodgy driving instructor
There are two types of licensed driving instructors – a Potential Driving Instructor (PDI) and an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) – and both can legally teach you how to drive.
Both types of instructor must clearly display a valid, in-date badge. For PDIs this is pink, while for ADIs it is green.
Both badges must carry the instructor’s name, a photograph of them, a valid date and a unique instructor number.
If they don’t have such a badge, they aren’t a legitimate instructor, even if they have other elements such as a dual-control car, roof signs and branding.
PDIs can legally instruct you and are registered with the DVSA, however, to become an ADI, they must complete three tests set by the DVSA. The fact that potential driving instructors are only allowed three attempts to become licensed means some may resort to teaching illegally if they fail.
Learner drivers can find a DVSA-approved instructor by using this service on GOV.UK.
Threat to learners and the public
Tom Preston, managing director of Hippo Leasing commented: “Due to the nature of driving lessons, learners are in a particularly vulnerable position, alone in a car with a stranger for long periods of time. If a driving instructor isn’t approved by the DVSA, there is no guarantee of personal or vehicle safety.”
The DVSA’s head of counter-fraud and investigations, Andy Rice added: “It’s essential that all drivers demonstrate they have the right skills, knowledge and attitude to drive safely and the result of their test is entirely dependent on their performance on the day.
“Illegal driving instructors pose a threat to learners and the general public alike. They often use uninsured vehicles, lack the proper training or are otherwise unfit to instruct the next generation of drivers.
“We have stringent measures in place to detect fraud and bring offenders to justice, and DVSA will always seek the strongest possible punishment.”
Anyone who believes illegal instruction to be taking place is encouraged to report it by calling 03001233248 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org