September 2020 News Roundup

cartoon open envelope on green background

Welcome to the September issue of our news roundup! In a month that’s seen yet more COVID uncertainty, we’re focusing on the big stories in the world of driving.

We can’t promise that the C-word won’t make a swift appearance—indeed, our first story is the drop in driving tests since the start of lockdown. After that, we’ll move on to the proposal to introduce ‘T-plates’ for young drivers, before shedding light on a new driving licence scam. Finally, we’ll take a look at the criticism levelled at insurers for failing to pass on their lockdown savings, before our monthly Highway Code tip. Let’s get started!

Lockdown sees 98% drop in driving tests taken

98 red cars and 2 green cars

By now, virtually all of us are aware of the toll that coronavirus has taken on Britain’s hopeful drivers. During lockdown, testing was closed to everyone but key workers in the NHS and social care sectors. We could, therefore, expect a huge drop in the number of tests taken—but now, we can finally put a number on it.

The DVSA this month released its statistics for the first quarter of 2020/21, equivalent to April–June 2020. They revealed a stunning 98.4% year-on-year decrease in the number of driving tests taken, while the number of theory tests fell by 98.7%. You can check out the detail in the table below.

Test type Tests taken in Q1 2019/20
(Apr–Jun 2019)
Tests taken in Q1 2020/21
(Apr–Jun 2020)
Percentage change
Car practical tests 393,428 6,264 ▼ 98.4%
Car theory tests 497,258 6,369 ▼ 98.7%

With the reopening of the test booking service in late August, and a recent increase in the number of tests allowed per day, we can expect the figures for future quarters to be rosier than these. Nonetheless, it seems we’re a long way from the resumption of normal service across the country.

Could ‘T-plates’ help to protect young drivers?

Telematics (or ‘black box’) insurance policies have grown in popularity in recent years, with many young drivers enticed by the cheaper premiums they offer as a reward for safe driving. Indeed, according to Co-op Insurance’s Beyond the Box report, 61% of 17-to-25-year-olds would consider one of these policies when insuring a car.

However, some are finding that their efforts to drive safely go down poorly with other motorists. In fact, 53% of those surveyed said that they’d felt under pressure from other motorists to drive faster, with 80% saying they’d experienced cars driving too closely behind.

To help combat these issues, Co-op Insurance are trialling new ‘T-plates’. Similar in design to the familiar L-plate, T-plates let other motorists know that a driver has telematics insurance, and will be penalised if they break the speed limit. It’s also hoped that it will encourage other drivers to think of the consequences of their own actions, and to reduce their own speed.

39% of those surveyed said they would use a T-plate themselves, with 300 young drivers currently taking part in a pilot scheme. We’ll report back once the results of this are in!

The £600 driving licence scam

Pass and fail practical test - PassMeFast characters

In a shock investigation, BBC News has revealed that scammers operating via social media are charging £600 for fake driving licences.

The team found that the fraudsters, posing as DVLA officials, claimed to be able to falsify driving test results and secure licences. In a conversation with the BBC’s team, they claimed that they “usually book your test for you and pass it without you actually being there, but it’s gonna look like you were there”.

Needless to say, these claims were completely false. The scammers’ only ‘proof’ of the licences they claimed to have obtained were mock-ups of the DVLA website. Worse still, those who try to cheat the system in this way could face fines of £1,000 for driving without a valid licence.

It goes without saying that if you want to get on the road, you must do so legally! If you’re looking to pass your test with a reputable company, then try one of PassMeFast’s tailored intensive driving courses.

Insurers criticised for failing to pass on lockdown savings

Two cars damaged when one collides with the other

With lockdown rules in force, many of us have been spending more time at home and less behind the wheel. This has had a knock-on effect of reducing the number of collisions, which, in turn, has seen 48% fewer claims being submitted to insurance firms.

However, even though insurers are having to pay out less, most drivers have seen no change to their insurance premiums. This has drawn heavy criticism, with James Blackham of insurer By Miles claiming that “no insurer is doing, or has done enough to pass on the savings gained in this period”.

Laura Hughes of the Association of British Insurers stressed that “insurers have been passing on cost savings to their customers”, but had to balance this against other cost pressures. Nonetheless, with insurance firms estimated to have saved around £1 billion during lockdown, many customers may rightfully feel aggrieved at the amount they’re having to shell out each year.

Highway Code tip of the month

Speed limit and bend signs on a foggy road

With autumnal conditions descending across the UK, it’s time to explore one of every driver’s biggest fears: fog. When the road ahead is hard to see, what should you do to stay safe? Here’s what the Highway Code says:

  • Before you enter fog, check your mirrors and slow down
  • If you see a roadside signal displaying the word Fog, be prepared for sudden thick fog ahead
  • When driving in fog, use your lights as required
  • Only use fog lights when visibility is seriously reduced, and be sure to turn them off when this improves
  • Stay well back from the vehicle in front
  • Use windscreen wipers and demisters
  • Beware of other drivers not using headlights
  • Do not try to accelerate away from vehicles following too closely behind
  • Check your mirrors before slowing down
  • Be able to pull up well within the distance you can see clearly
  • Stop in the correct position at a junction with limited visibility and listen for traffic

News in brief

  • Ride-hailing firm Uber granted an 18-month licence to operate in London in a reversal of previous rulings (The Guardian)
  • Drivers whose licences were due to expire in 2020 have been granted an 11-month extension  (GOV.UK)
  • Car production in the UK fell a staggering 44.6% in August, down by over 40,000 units compared to 2019 (SMMT)
  • For the first time, drivers can now order their V5C logbooks online from the DVLA (Auto Express)
  • Around 12 million drivers are considering switching to an electric car in the next two years (London Loves Business)
  • In Merseyside, an e-scooter rider caused havoc by travelling through the Queensway Tunnel (Liverpool Echo)
  • Elon Musk has promised that a sub-$25000 Tesla could be on the market within 3 years (GQ)
  • According to data from RAC Insurance, the morning rush hour has returned for the first time since lockdown started (RAC)

    That’s all for this month’s news roundup! Don’t miss September’s top pass photos and customer reviews for more driving positivity.

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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