More than 34,000 learners travelled over 100 miles for a driving test last year

Learner drivers could travel a staggering 25 miles for a driving test by 2030, according to new data, as test centre locality and available test slots dwindle.

That’s according to a new report by learner driver insurance broker, Marmalade, which has revealed the scale of how far learners are travelling for a driving test.

Through multiple Freedom of Information requests (FOI) over a six month period and an analysis of more than six million records between 2019 and 2023, the data has revealed a bleak reality for learners.

For the most recent full year – 2023 – Marmalade found the average distance travelled across the UK by learners for a test was 12.33 miles, a 48% increase on the distance travelled in 2019 (8.33 miles).

The data revealed that distances across the UK are increasing on average by 10.30% per year. If this rate of growth continues, by 2030, learners could travel around 25 miles for a test (24.49). That’s a 194% increase on the distance travelled in 2019.

The full data for the UK between 2019 and 2030 can be found here.

The research also reveals stark regional variations in the distance candidates are travelling for tests.

In 2023 learners in the South East of the UK travelled further than anyone else, an average of 13.9 miles, while those in the North West were only having to travel an average of 7.1 miles.

In fact, there were 164 test centres across the UK in 2023 where the average distance travelled to reach them was above the national average.

London leads the way in terms of distance rising, with mileage increasing from 7.7 miles in 2019 to 17.7 miles in 2023 – a 130.77% increase, growing on average by 23.25% each year.

The report reveals similar year-on-year growth in the South East (21.2%) and the East of England (12.95%), indicating that learners in these three regions are progressively struggling with the impact and pressure to get a driving test.

Commenting on the data, driving instructor Mark Steeples from Pass Mark School of Driving said:

“I find it pretty astonishing that learners could end up having to travel around 25 miles for a test. I’m amazed at the year-on-year increase in distance travelled for a test, but I suppose it shows the desperation that people have in wanting to learn how to drive and they’ll go to any means necessary to do it.”

Bucking the trend, Marmalade found learners travelling to the Heckmondwike test centre in Kirklees, West Yorkshire are making the shortest journey in the UK, with an average distance of 3.82 miles travelled.

The 2023 records also revealed that one learner travelled from Exeter, all the way to Shetland, an eye watering 647 mile journey for a test. While 34,614 learners made a trip of more than 100 miles for a test.

Mark commented on how he’d had enquiries from people wanting to travel further afield for a test:

“I’ve had enquiries from people who want to learn and get into a test around 50 miles away from me. Why go to an area that you don’t know? It’s hard enough doing a test anyway, you have a lifetime to drive on the UK roads, but don’t pick the day of your driving test to do that.

“A lot of instructors just teach test routes in the local area, but that means that most learners won’t be prepared for any test route and the potential impacts of driving in a new place.”

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