Drive Confident

AA Charity launches new scheme for lapsed or rusty drivers

AA Charity offers free courses to help improve confidence and skills

17 March 2010

Half of drivers say they would benefit from refresher training

  • 600,000 have been off the road so long they have 'forgotten how to drive'
  • AA Charity offers free courses to help improve confidence and skills

Nearly half (45%) of AA members believe they would benefit from a refresher driving course, according to a new AA/Populus survey* for the AA Charitable Trust for Road Safety and the Environment.

Lapsed drivers (93%) and older drivers (86%) are the most likely to benefit from training to improve confidence and refresh skills, AA members say.

Course build confidence for lapsed or rusty drivers The findings come as other AA research** reveals that more than 5 million Britons, one in every six licence-holders, say they have taken a break from driving long enough to lose skills and confidence.

One in six motorists (16%) say they have stopped driving for three years or longer, including more than 70,000 who have avoided the roads for over 20 years.

More than 600,000 say they have been away from the wheel for so long they are not sure they would remember how to drive.

The figures are revealed by the AA Charitable Trust as it launches Drive Confident, a new programme of free refresher courses for lapsed or rusty drivers delivered through AA Driving School.

The charity will offer 2,000 totally free Drive Confident packages (two one-hour sessions with a fully-qualified AA driving instructor) designed to help drivers improve their confidence and skills.

See Drive Confident feature by Meridian West on » (26 March 2010)


The charity's director and AA President Edmund King says: "The car is a life-line for many people in our society, yet for some the quality of their life is affected due to lack of confidence behind the wheel.

"Almost 90 per cent of respondents in a Saga/Populus poll*** named lapsed drivers as a group most likely to benefit from refresher training. An example we came across is a 62-year-old widow whose husband did all the driving. She had never driven on roads with a speed limit over 40mph so when he died she was not able to visit family and friends outside her village. An AA Drive Confident course has helped her get back behind the wheel and restore her driving confidence.

"The free AA Trust Drive Confident courses will benefit lapsed drivers as well as those with fear of motorways, night driving, speed or parking."

Read more about drive confident/apply for a course »

Read more about the AA Charitable Trust for Road Safety and the Environment »


* AA/Populus panel survey of 12,231 AA members, 7-14 December 2009.

Asked which areas of training would be of most benefit to them, AA/Populus respondents named:

  • speed awareness (16%)
  • night driving (15%)
  • road signs (14%)
  • parking (13%)
  • motorway driving (9%)

** Research undertaken with 72 Point on 7-8 May 2009. 2,000 respondents were questioned.

Asked why they had taken a break from driving, nearly one in five (18%) said they no longer enjoyed it or were scared to get behind the wheel. Sixteen per cent said they had deferred driving duties to their partner or spouse – rising to nearly a quarter (23%) among those who passed their test 36-50 years ago and nearly two-thirds (64%) among those who passed at least 50 years ago.

*** Saga/Populus panel survey of 14,178 adults aged 50 and over, 17-22 December 2009. 89 per cent named lapsed drivers as those most likely to benefit from refresher training, with nearly two thirds (64%) naming expats returning to UK roads after a period of driving abroad.

Case Studies


Susan (64, of Southampton)

Susan passed her test 30 years ago but has hardly driven over the last two years due to ill health. Her confidence suffered and she developed a particular aversion to roundabouts and merging on to motorways or dual carriageways. "I was scared to death. I would drive five miles to avoid a roundabout," she says.

As a result, Susan, who is disabled, says her quality of life suffered. "It took away something I enjoyed doing; I used to enjoy driving. I found I wouldn't go out on my own any more. I was indoors a lot and felt like I was losing contact with the world."

After doing a specially tailored confidence lesson with an AA Driving School instructor, Susan is now practising the skills she learned and is well on the road to overcoming her fears. "It has lifted me a bit; it feels like an achievement. I'm proud that I've done it. Now I'm not going to let it go, I'm going to make sure I drive two to three times a week.

"I look forward to going out now. I'm more confident and happier, and it's more social – when you can drive you can visit people."

William (25, of Basingstoke)

William has had his licence for seven years but when he went to university soon after passing his test, living on campus and with no car, he had little chance to practice his skills. He has hardly driven since and felt hesitant about getting back behind the wheel, so he booked a refresher lesson with AA Driving School.

His skills and confidence quickly returned under the expert guidance of his fully-qualified instructor, who helped him improve his anticipation and use of the clutch and brakes. At William's request, the instructor also helped him develop his spatial awareness, parking and skills at roundabouts and junctions.

The Ford Focus used by AA Driving School was another big attraction for William, who plans to buy a Focus of his own. "I took one on a test drive the other day and felt much more confident. I could concentrate on the car rather than being pre-occupied with my driving ability. My new confidence will definitely give me more freedom; I can do things more spur-of-the-moment, without having to think about arranging lifts or buses all the time.

"Drive Confident will be great for university graduates who have had a break from driving, people who have lived on campus or in big cities where they have always used public transport."

Tracey (29, of Cardiff)

Tracey was "busy living life" after she passed her test four years ago, which didn't leave money for buying a car. She estimates she has driven just 20 hours since. Her lack of experience and confidence was compounded last month, when the car in which she was a passenger was shunted from behind by a coach, leaving her with severe whiplash and further misgivings about driving.

Tracey summoned the courage to confront her fears and booked a two-hour refresher session through the AA. "I wouldn't get in the driver's seat before. I've had a car for the last year and a half, and it's just been sitting on the drive. I was very reliant on my partner to get around. But I wanted more independence. I wanted the confidence to be able to drive myself."

Though she admits she "ticked all the boxes" when asked to identify areas of her driving that needed attention, Tracey says the expert tuition she received has put her well on the road to resuming her driving career. "Nigel, my instructor, was excellent and made me feel at ease during the whole lesson – he has given me my confidence in driving back."

Tracey is now committed to practising and further developing her skills in her own time under an action plan agreed with her instructor.

Join the discussion in the AA zone


26 March 2010

AA Charitable Trust for Road Safety and the Environment. Registered charity number 1125119