Illegal driving instructors - how to spot them

Anyone can set themselves up as a driving instructor, as long as they’ve got a car and some L-plates. Correct? Well, no, it doesn’t work like that. The driving instruction industry is heavily regulated to make sure that the standard of tuition is at a level that keeps our roads safe.

It’s all down to section 123 of the Road Traffic Act (1988). This says anybody who accepts cash for providing driving instruction must have passed the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) three-part exam. 

It’s essential that you’re not taken in by a phoney instructor just because they’re ultra-nice with you

But how do you know that somebody has passed these tests and is legally allowed to charge you in return for driving tuition?

Easy; the giveaway is a badge which has to be clearly displayed in the windscreen of the car in which they teach you to drive. Which means your car, if the instructor isn’t using their own (an unlikely scenario, as your car won’t have dual controls).

What you’re looking for is a green octagonal badge which shows that the instructor is fully qualified; if their badge is a pink triangle they’re a trainee.

The badges are made of plastic (not paper) and they measure 10.5cm across; they also have a date on them and a unique instructor number. There should also be a photograph of the instructor on the inside, taken within the last four years; if any of these elements are missing, be very wary.

Be even more wary if there’s no licence on display and you’re offered lame excuses as to why not. By law the instructor has to show it when teaching and they can be fined up to £1000 for not doing so.

If the licence is missing – or can’t be produced – it’s not just a question of the instruction potentially being rubbish; the instructor probably hasn’t gone through the enhanced CRB check which is required to qualify for a full licence.

It’s essential that you’re not taken in by a phoney instructor just because they’re ultra-nice with you. That’s how they keep going; they win you over so you don’t look for instruction elsewhere, even if they’re actually not very good.

Top tip

You can report an illegal driving instructor online or on 0191 201 8120.

Killer facts

On average, one illegal driving instructor is reported to the DVSA’s fraud investigation team ever day.

There are more than 41,000 approved driving instructors on the DVSA register, so you’re not short of choice.