Pass Plus is an advanced driving qualification that requires the driver to be able to drive competently in a wide range of circumstances that are not routinely tested in a standard driving test or taught on a standard driving course.
The idea behind the qualification is principally to give new drivers greater experience and the confidence to handle a wider range of driving conditions that they might otherwise come across, unprepared, in the ‘real world’. As an additional incentive, Pass Plus is often sold by driving instructors on the premise that it will usually reduce car insurance premiums, because insurers will be reassured that the driver will be less likely to crash or be involved in an accident because they will be better equipped to deal with hazards and emergencies.
Pass Plus has been around since 1995 when the Driving Standards Agency set it up to try to improve the standard of driving particularly amongst young and inexperienced drivers.
A standard driving course has no minimum required number of hours of driving to be undertaken before the test can be taken. So someone who takes just five hours’ of lessons can take and pass the test and be allowed on the roads. There is a ‘recommendation’ that 40 hours of driving instruction be taken before a driver undertakes the test, but this is voluntary and is not enforced.
Similarly, the standard test and instruction do not lay down any requirements that the driver experience driving in particular conditions, such as driving in the dark, in rain or snow, on unmarked country roads or on dual carriageways or motorways. Indeed, L-plates cannot be displayed on motorways and so only qualified drivers can drive on motorways.
The Pass Plus course requires the driver to experience driving in six different situations – motorways, dual carriageways, country roads, all types of weather, driving in cities/towns, and driving at night – before they can take their test.
These are all extremely valuable experiences and, it’s fair to say, most parents would probably want their children to experience these conditions for the first time in a lesson with an experienced instructor by their sides rather than when driving their mates home from a night out.
But as far as car insurance is concerned, relatively few insurers offer discounts to drivers who possess the Pass Plus certificate. This makes it hard for cash-strapped teenagers and their parents to justify the upfront cost of the extra Pass Plus lessons – the benefits of the experience don’t have a pound value and are therefore hard to weigh up against the cost of the additional lessons.
The reason for the relative paucity of discounts for Pass Plus is that there is no tangible evidence to show that people with Pass Plus have fewer accidents (so insurers cannot be sure that having the qualification will lead to fewer claims being made).
Another way that young drivers might be able to reduce their insurance premiums is to get ‘pay how you drive’ insurance, with a black box fitted to the car to measure how fast they drive and at
what time of day and so on. Sensible driving (which will be enhanced by experience of the Pass Plus course) will be rewarded with lower premiums.