Interest in learning to drive has more than doubled since the beginning of lockdown restrictions in March 2020 as many people look to get out on the road and seek some independence. However, it’s clear that interest and demand has spiked dramatically in different areas of the UK, but where are the nations lockdown learners?
We’ve been crunching the numbers to investigate the impact of lockdown on the demand for learning to drive. Our recent research suggests that we’re likely to see a decline in driving instructors over the next few years and this data will help to paint a complete picture of the whole story.
Where in the UK saw the biggest increase in demand for learning to drive?
Topping the leaderboard was Middlesbrough, which saw the biggest rise in interest ahead of driving lessons resuming in England on Saturday 4 July, with stats suggesting interest in learning to drive rose by 554% throughout March to June. There were also significant spikes in searches from residents of Chester (310%), Cheltenham (248%) and Norwich (236%).
How did we gather the data?
To investigate the impact of lockdown on the appetite for learning to drive, we took a bit of a deep dive into Google Keyword Planner data to explore the number of searches for terms such as ‘learning to drive’ throughout the strictest period of lockdown; from March to June 2020. As well as looking at the data on a national level, we also wanted to know which towns and cities of the UK were seeing the biggest spikes in demand.
National searches for ‘learning to drive’ increased by 120% over this four month period, however it’s clear that in many places this was a lot higher.
What do learners think?
We caught up with learner driver Lewis Barlow, 28, Nottingham about his reasons why lockdown reignited his driving ambitions.
“Prior to lockdown I had to get two buses each way to work and as lockdown persisted and the severity of the current situation became clear I realised that getting back on public transport to that extent was not a desirable option for me.
“Driving had always been something I’d been meaning to pick back up and this seemed like as good a reason as any. I’m definitely looking forward to being more autonomous and able to return to the office when that’s deemed appropriate. I also think my husband’s looking forward to not always being the designated driver!”
Why do we think this has happened?
Lockdown has encouraged many people to reevaluate their personal aspirations with many using it as an opportunity to set new goals and targets for the coming months including career changes, health and fitness ambitions as well as many using the extra time at home to hone a new skill such as driving.
Of course there is more to learning to drive than just learning a new skill. For many people, learning to drive is the first step of real independence and offers the chance to escape the house without the reliance on a friend, family member or public transport. And after being cooped at home during the strictest periods of lockdown, it’s no wonder that many people have been desperate to explore new places and really embrace the chance of seeing new places when they can.
CEO at Marmalade, Crispin Moger, said:
It’s no surprise that being stuck at home during the strictest period of lockdown made a lot of people sit down and have a think about their future plans, as well as self-development goals and ambitions once they had the opportunity to tackle them head on. Driving, for many people, is one of the main forms of independence, and being stuck at home for significant lengths of time has been the incentive for many to get on the road and travel in their own vehicle more proactively than ever before.
We have also seen a year-on-year increase in sales for learner driving insurance specifically, which is also likely to be driven by the measures being taken on public transport such as the requirement for social distancing and the need to wear a face covering. Many people feel safer in the comfort of their own vehicle, and with 20% of people suggesting they are likely to drive more to avoid public transport, this is likely to have contributed towards the spike in searches as well.
The next challenges facing provisional licence holders is finding an approved instructor with availability for new pupils, and booking a driving test, with waiting lists rising all the time.
Learning to drive searches by location
|Location||Keyword||April SV||June SV||Percentage increase over lockdown|
|Middlesbrough||Learning to drive||50||327||554%|
|Chester||Learning to drive||67||275||310%|
|Cheltenham||Learning to drive||75||261||248%|
|Norwich||Learning to drive||144||484||236%|
|Luton||Learning to drive||101||326||223%|
|Stoke-On-Trent||Learning to drive||158||506||220%|
|Lincoln||Learning to drive||116||360||210%|
|Bolton||Learning to drive||241||711||195%|
|Coventry||Learning to drive||426||1232||189%|
|Lancaster||Learning to drive||89||255||187%|
|Hull||Learning to drive||189||530||180%|
|Reading||Learning to drive||243||664||173%|
|Guildford||Learning to drive||153||417||173%|
|Exeter||Learning to drive||114||307||169%|
|Preston||Learning to drive||146||391||168%|
|Chelmsford||Learning to drive||106||280||164%|
|Sunderland||Learning to drive||165||411||149%|
|Wigan||Learning to drive||151||374||148%|
|York||Learning to drive||147||362||146%|
|Plymouth||Learning to drive||208||509||145%|
|Shrewbury||Learning to drive||84||204||143%|
|Peterborough||Learning to drive||295||696||136%|
|Northampton||Learning to drive||313||735||135%|
|Oxford||Learning to drive||231||541||134%|
|Belfast||Learning to drive||235||546||132%|
|Manchester||Learning to drive||540||1235||129%|
|Watford||Learning to drive||223||505||126%|
|Leicester||Learning to drive||373||832||123%|
|Cardiff||Learning to drive||146||309||112%|
|Birmingham||Learning to drive||885||1859||110%|
|Glasgow||Learning to drive||598||1207||102%|
|Milton Keynes||Learning to drive||216||429||99%|
|Sheffield||Learning to drive||545||1063||95%|
|Bournemouth||Learning to drive||289||559||93%|
|London||Learning to drive||5146||9878||92%|
|Blackpool||Learning to drive||166||316||90%|
|Liverpool||Learning to drive||643||1152||79%|
|Brighton||Learning to drive||270||480||78%|
|Bristol||Learning to drive||686||1212||77%|
|Nottingham||Learning to drive||465||814||75%|
|Bath||Learning to drive||130||224||72%|
|Southampton||Learning to drive||293||492||68%|
|Wolverhampton||Learning to drive||348||579||66%|
|Swindon||Learning to drive||231||383||66%|
|Edinburgh||Learning to drive||607||999||65%|
|Bradford||Learning to drive||431||694||61%|
|Swansea||Learning to drive||80||128||60%|
|UK||Learning to drive||37095||58589||58%|
|Portsmouth||Learning to drive||344||543||58%|
|Basingstoke||Learning to drive||221||343||55%|
|Derby||Learning to drive||435||663||52%|
|Gloucester||Learning to drive||157||236||50%|
|Bedford||Learning to drive||264||391||48%|
|Colchester||Learning to drive||224||329||47%|
|Leeds||Learning to drive||801||1157||44%|
|Aberdeen||Learning to drive||311||436||40%|
|Worcester||Learning to drive||162||226||40%|
|Cambridge||Learning to drive||254||354||39%|
|Southend||Learning to drive||269||359||33%|
|Ipswich||Learning to drive||244||306||25%|
|Newcastle||Learning to drive||648||777||20%|
|Slough||Learning to drive||421||463||10%|