The new figures from the UK’s driving licensing body revealed that 14,618 provisional licence holders were found to be driving without insurance in 2020 - a 16% increase compared with two years earlier.
Provisional licences are issued to learner drivers so they can take to the road for lessons before sitting their driving test. They are valid for 10 years from the date of issue but aren’t intended as a long-term alternative to a full licence.
The figures, obtained by RAC insurance also showed that even more drivers stopped without insurance had no licence at all and some were as young as 13.
The 2020 figures - the last year full data is available for - revealed that 23 13-year-olds were caught behind the wheel, although this is not as bad as the previous two years when there were a number of 12-year-olds caught driving on public roads.
More than 120 14-15-year-olds were also stopped, obviously driving without a licence or insurance, but a number of 70-year-olds were also found to be driving with no licence and five 68-year-olds were caught without insurance and with only a provisional licence.
However, the largest group of uninsured drivers remained those with full licences. A total of 39,894 – 38% of all those uninsured - were full licence holders, down from 44,705 in 2018. A further 33,015 - 31% of all those uninsured - had expired licences (a 4% increase). – this is a 4% increase on 2018. Some 2,182 uninsured drivers held non-GB licences – only 2% of all those without insurance.
The fine for driving without insurance can be as much as £1,000 and drivers caught without suitable cover can also see their car seized and even crushed if they don’t take action.
RAC insurance spokesman Simon Williams commented: “The fact the number of provisional drivers caught without insurance increased in 2020 may well be a symptom of the onslaught of the pandemic and the impact it had on learning to drive and people’s finances. The shortage of available driving tests due to Covid is also likely to be a significant factor behind the high numbers.
“It’s also the case that younger drivers, who are more likely to have provisional licences, pay a disproportionate amount of tax when they buy car insurance which makes their already expensive policies even harder to afford. Insurance Premium Tax at the current rate of 12% adds a huge £120 to a young driver’s £1,000 annual policy which may be further reason why more so many decide to run the gauntlet of driving with no insurance.
“Those who drive without a licence are also driving without insurance. Their selfish action puts everyone else on the road – drivers, passengers, motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians – in both physical and financial danger.
“Thanks to the Motor Insurers’ Bureau acting as the ‘insurer of last resort’, no one should ever lose out financially after being involved in a collision with an uninsured driver, but every incident they are involved in contributes to the average cost of insurance that every law-abiding driver pays.”