December 2020 News Roundup


Welcome to the final news roundup of 2020! Before you get stuck into your New Year’s Eve celebrations, take a moment to look back on this month’s top stories. We’re featuring the latest quarterly pass rates from the DVSA, news of a potential new charge for drivers in London, an increase in BEV sales, and the year’s top personalised registration searches. We’ll round things off, as always, with a monthly Highway Code tip.

Pass rates revealed for July to September 2020

Pass and fail stamps on paper
Composite image created by PassMeFast. Source of original images: The Digital Artist and 1681551, both via Pixabay

As a driving school, any news relating to the driving test is always going to catch the attention of the PassMeFast team. We were especially eager to learn more about the stats from Q2 2019/20, which the DVSA released in mid-December. This might not sound too exciting, but these represent the first tests taken after the end of the first national lockdown.

The number of practical tests taken remained far below average, with 188,520 in the three-month period. This was less than half the number taken in the same period in 2019—a decline of 53.8% year-on-year. This reflects the gradual reopening of practical tests that started from July, with priority testing for key workers and those whose test had been delayed due to coronavirus.

Even these relatively weak figures, however, represent a significant recovery from the quarter between April and June 2020, when the UK was in full lockdown and when only 6,264 tests were conducted. Pass rates stood at 50.1% in July–September, ahead of the 2019 average.

Theory tests, which reopened to candidates much more quickly, saw an even stronger recovery. From just 6,369 tests conducted in Q1, the numbers jumped to 457,177 in Q2. This was still slightly below the position in 2019, but represents a more modest drop of 8.4%. Pass rates were far higher than in the equivalent period in 2019, up from 48.2% to 56.3%.

It remains to be seen how the second lockdown and subsequent tier-based rules will affect figures for Q3—and we’ll need to wait until at least March for the exact numbers. Be sure to check back regularly for all the latest updates!

Are drivers set to be hit by another charge in London?

Sign denoting that the driver will enter the ULEZ and congestion charge zones in a 1/2 mile
Photo © David Hawgood (cc-by-sa/2.0)

London is known as one of the most expensive cities anywhere on the globe—something plenty of motorists will attest to. Over the last two decades, various fees have made driving certain vehicles in parts of the capital eyewateringly pricey. In 2003 came the congestion charge, followed by the T-charge in 2017 and its replacement, ULEZ, in 2019.

Now, with Transport for London struggling financially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a third charge is being floated by Mayor Sadiq Khan. His proposal is to institute a ‘boundary charge’ that would see those living outside of London pay to enter most areas within the M25. The cost would be £3.50 per day, and would raise an estimated £500 million for TfL.

Khan had requested that the funds raised from road tax on London’s drivers should go to TfL rather than the Treasury. He argued that “[it] is not fair on London that our drivers should subsidise the rest of the country’s roads and get nothing in return”. Should his attempts fail, then the ‘boundary charge’—which could reduce traffic on the capital’s roads by up to 15%—could come into force in coming years.

Sales of BEVs double, bucking overall slump

Cable plugged into an electric car
Image source: Ernest Ojeh via Unsplash

The shift towards greener vehicles is well underway as we approach 2030, the year in which the ban on new diesel and petrol car sales comes into force. Preliminary figures from SMMT, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, suggests that drivers are getting on board.

Electric vehicles have proved a bright spot for car manufacturers in an otherwise-dire year for new registrations. The star performer amongst this group is battery electric vehicles, or BEVs, of which sales have increased by a staggering 162.2% in the year to November. This represents 5.8% of the market—almost four times the equivalent 2019 share. Plug-in hybrids and MHEVs have also shown strong growth this year, while registrations of HEVs have increased more modestly.

All of this comes as the overall market for new cars is on the downswing, driven by dramatic falls in the number of new petrol and diesel cars registered. Petrol cars have dropped from just under 1.4 million at this point in 2019 to under 850,000 in 2020—down 39.2%. For diesel, the situation is even worse: a 55.2% slump from around 550,000 to under 250,000.

Top personalised reg searches of 2020 revealed

Mercedes car with personalised number plate GOOD
Image source: Denis Alexeyev via Wikipedia

Whether it’s an extra mince pie or a glass of sherry, the festive season is always a good time to treat yourself. One of the most popular motoring-related ways to do just that is through personalised licence plates.

Despite the financial toll that COVID has had on many households across the country, personalised registration continues to boom. By early December, around 370,000 had already been purchased, with more expected as figures come in from the Christmas period.

To celebrate the end of the year, the DVLA has released the top ten most searched for terms on the personalised registration website. Given the character limit inherent to a number plate, it won’t come as too much of a surprise to learn that all of these are fairly short. Here’s the list:

1 Sam 33,758
2 Dan 30,986
3 Ben 23,579
4 Tom 23,251
5 Amy 19,288
6 Boss 19,103
7 BMW 19,076
8 Lee 18,525
9 Ash 18,087
10 Jay 17,155

Names make up the bulk of the top ten, with the gender-neutral Sam perhaps an obvious contender for the top spot. The only deviations from this trend are the appearances of ‘Boss’ at #6 and ‘BMW’ at #7. Wondering if you should get your own? Check out our article covering whether it’s worth investing in a personalised number plate.

Highway Code tip of the month

Alcoholic drink in smashed lass next to car keys

This month’s tip concerns two of the most important rules in the Highway Code: rules 95 and 96, relating to alcohol and drugs. Driving under the influence of either is illegal, and could cause death or serious injury to you, any passengers, or any other road user. The rules state that you must not drive if:

  • Your breath alcohol level is above 35mg/100ml in England or Wales, or 22mg/100ml in Scotland
  • Your blood alcohol level is above 80mg/100ml in England or Wales, or 50mg/100ml in Scotland
  • You are under the influence of illegal drugs or medicines
  • You have drugs or medicines in your blood above certain limits

Alcohol can cause false confidence, reduce your coordination and reaction times, affect your judgement, and reduce your driving ability. It can also continue to affect your driving later on, as it takes time to leave your body. Drugs can have even more severe effects, and can result in fatal crashes. Never drive after drinking or taking drugs. If you need to travel this holiday season, avoid drink or drugs, or arrange alternative transport.

That’s the last bit of news from us in 2020! (Knowing the year we’ve had, this may come as a relief.) If you’re in the mood for some positivity, then don’t miss PassMeFast’s top customer reviews and pass photos from December. Finally, from all of us in the team, we’d like to wish you a very happy new year. Onwards and upwards in 2021!

By Andy Boardman

Andy has been part of the PassMeFast Blog team from the very beginning. He'll provide you with plenty of useful motoring advice, helping you to get the most out of every trip. When he's not writing here, you're most likely to find Andy on the way to his next destination.

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