Learner drivers in England and Wales are once more allowed to take driving lessons after the lockdown restrictions were eased this week. But the AA Driving School has warned of massive waiting lists as a wave of pent-up demand is unleashed on driving schools and instructors.

The AA says it and BSM have already started a waiting list for lessons, and more than 26,000 people requested a notification to tell them when lesson booking would re-open. The two driving schools have also seen almost 177,000 individual searches for driving lessons since December 2020.

According to the driving schools, Bristol is the most in-demand location for learners, followed by the Scottish cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Nottingham, Cardiff and Liverpool also made the top 10, along with smaller cities including Bath and Portsmouth.

Learner driver and instructor standing outside car

Lessons returned on April 12, as the government relaxed the coronavirus lockdown rules for England and Wales. Scotland is yet to announce a date for the return of driving lessons, although First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced lessons will not return before April 26 and will be subject to local lockdown tier systems.

But the AA says it isn’t just driving lessons that will be overwhelmed. The organisation has advised the government to brace itself for a surge in demand for driving tests, with thousands of tests cancelled as a result of lockdown and ever more learners clamouring to book their place. At present, the government plans to bring back English and Welsh driving tests on April 22, with top spots on the waiting list reserved for those who had tests cancelled because of the coronavirus lockdown.

Learner driver with instructor taking lessons

“Our instructors are eager to finally welcome back learners from England and Wales after lockdown,” said Robert Cowell, the interim managing director of the AA Driving School. “We saw huge demand for driving lessons after the first lockdown last year and anticipate even more people will want to learn to drive this year. We’ve got 26,000 people waiting for lessons and that’s only a fraction of the people who will be booking with instructors across the country.

“Although instructors met the challenges of their increased workload when the last lockdown ended, learners struggled to book tests and it resulted in further delays. We hope that they have learned their lesson and will be releasing more test slots sooner. “It’s been a really difficult period for instructors across the UK and the restrictions have severely impacted the livelihoods of thousands of people, so we’re pleased that the industry will be on the road to normality soon.

“Our data shows that people in Scotland are some of the most eager to take driving lessons after lockdown and we hope its government will provide clarity on return dates there soon.”