words Alexa Wang
Learning to drive late in life can be a pain. You just don’t seem to have the same instinct for it when you’re older.
Everything just seems to take longer and you find yourself over checking everything till you have neck strain through checking your mirrors too many times.
Maybe you are just more naturally cautious as you get older. If we could just have the ability to relax and switch off the nervous side of our brain it’d make learning to drive a whole lot easier. Many people will have to go used to it as many of us are learning later in life these days that we used to.
The legal age to get behind the wheel and start learning to drive is 17, however research from a survey of 1,500 participants in 2016 shows that the average age to start driving is now 26. In fact, 44% of learners are now over the age of 25.
In the last nine years, the number of young drivers learning between ages 17 and 20 has fallen by 21% — meaning more people are taking to the roads when they’re older. Older drivers may be warier about being in control of a vehicle and more cautious of hazards which can set them back in the learning process.
There are different deciding factors for older drivers getting behind the wheel — 43% of learners over the age of 25 said that their reason for getting on the road was family. So, don’t let your age hold you back — we’ve teamed up with Pass N Go, a driving school offering driving lessons in Durham, to provide you with all that you need to know on the matter.
Age and pass rate
Pass rates have been rising in most age categories over the past ten years according to government statistics. The average pass rate (the percentage of tests passed out of those conducted) for a 17-year-old between 2016 and 2017 was 56.7%, 4.7% higher than the pass rate between 2007 and 2008. Looking at an older age category, the pass rate of a 45-year-old is now 36.3% compared to 29.7%.
The research shows that, up to a certain age, the pass rate does decrease and at age 55, it currently stands at 33.5%. However, with learners over the age of 61, the pass rate jumps up to 35.9%. This could be due to the extra spare time that this age group has to conduct their lessons or it could be because of those over 70 retaking their test. Either way, it shows that you’re never too old to pass!
What holds them back?
So, why are older drivers extra cautious? 52% of learners over the age of 25 said that lack of confidence was their primary concern. Older drivers are more accustomed to being passengers or using public transport and the thought of being in control of a vehicle is frightening.
The second worry for older drivers is ‘not knowing how long the process will take’. Research does suggest that a learner aged 17 can pass with an average of 30 one-hour lessons whereas a 40-year-old driver will need around 50 hours. Older drivers often have more commitments too such as managing lessons around working hours and looking after a family.
Those far from the legal driving age may also have slower reactions to the hazards that occur on the roads and this can deter them from learning. However, due to their many years of experience being a passenger, it is likely that they will have a good level of road sense and have the ability to spot potential problems ahead.
If you are concerned about beginning to drive at an older age, here are some things to consider:
Infrequent or irregular driving lessons does reduce your chances to succeed. Although it can be hard to schedule driving lessons around working hours, try to have intensive lessons on your days off. For example, a weekly two-hour lesson on a Saturday combined with an hourly weekday session after work could prevent you forgetting what you’d learnt the previous time!
You could use your driving lessons to get places too. For example, if you work nearby and you need driving lessons in Manchester, you could start your lesson straight after work and finish it at home — cutting down your commute and fitting your lessons nicely around your day.
Alternatively, you could take an intensive driving course in your work holidays. Before an intensive course, you will take an assessment to decide how long your course should be according to your abilities. After your intensive course, you can take your test and get on the roads! This also can address the concern of the learning process taking too long.
Safety and legality
You could learn with a friend or family member if you think this would be best for you. However, keep in mind that they must be over the age of 21 and have had their licence for three years. They must be supervising you too — it is in fact illegal for them to be using a mobile phone whilst you are driving.
You need your own insurance as a learner driver too. This can be either insurance on your own car or your family or friend’s insurance must cover you too.
Consider your health implications too. Speak to your doctor if you are concerned that any of your health issues can affect your safety on the road and in terms of eyesight. You must be able to read a number plate from 20 metres away.