• Learners report 961 illegal driving instructors over the past five years
  • The conviction rate is extremely low for unlicensed driving instructors, just 18 in five years

It was recently reported that a record number of learners have been caught cheating on their driving tests – 889 cases in fact in 2018/19 alone.

However, when it comes to impersonation, it isn’t just learners who are cheating the system.

According to exclusive data* obtained by Hippo Leasing via a Freedom of Information request, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has received 961 reports of illegal driving instructors over the past five years.

While the DVSA in its own words “investigates all reports of illegal driving instruction and seeks the strongest possible punishments”, the conviction rate for offenders is extremely low.

Despite nearly 1,000 reports to the DVSA about illegal driving instructors, there have only been 18 convictions in the past five years**:

Year Police caution/Referred for prosecution Convicted
2014-2015 2 0
2015-2016 6 4
2016-2017 4 7
2017-2018 0 1
2018-2019 10 6

Section 123 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 states driving instruction for payment can only be given legally by registered or licensed persons. There are approximately 40,000 approved driving instructors regulated by the DVSA.

Unbeknownst to learner drivers, taking lessons from unlicensed driving instructors puts them at risk of the following:

  • Missing out on key driving skills due to low quality teaching
  • The instructor not having a valid CRB check and therefore possibly a criminal record
  • Not being protected by insurance in the case of accident or injury
  • Driving in a dangerous or unroadworthy vehicle
  • Practical test cancellation.

So, how can you tell if a driving instructor is taking you for a ride?

There are two types of licenced driving instructors – a Potential Driving Instructor (PDI) and an Approved Driving Instructor (ADI) – and both can legally teach you how to drive.

To become an ADI, a PDI must complete three tests set by the DVSA. The fact that potential driving instructors only have three attempts to become licenced means some may resort to teaching illegally if they fail.

Legally, a PDI must clearly display a pink badge and a ADI a green badge in the learner vehicle, with their name, a headshot, a valid date and a unique instructor number. If a PDI is teaching you to drive, that’s perfectly normal as it means they are actively working their way towards taking their final test to obtain their ADI licence.

Anyone can get hold of vehicle branding, a roof sign and dual controls. If an instructor is charging you (or your loved ones) for lessons but does not display either a green or pink badge, they are breaking the law.

Tom Preston, Managing Director of Hippo Leasing commented on the findings:

“While driving test fraud carried out by learners is currently a big talking point in the media, attention also needs to be paid to the number of reports about illegal driving instructors too.

“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 heavily relies on witnesses coming forward to prevent illegal driving instructors from operating. If you’re suspicious, report it by calling 03001233248 or emailing cfi@dvsa.gov.uk”.