Skip to main content

Working with you to encourage learners to practice driving in the dark

cars driving at night through a busy town centre with their headlights on

Over the past few months, we’ve been carrying out research to help shape our campaign to encourage learner drivers to broaden the experience they have before taking their driving test. We blogged about which areas we’re targeting in our blog post from July.

Our initial research found that 89% of learners we surveyed said their instructor had the most influence on them feeling ready for test. We’d like to work with you over the next few months to make sure learner drivers are broadening their experience before taking their test, starting with driving in the dark.

So, in this blog post I’d like to share with you what our research found were the reasons you felt learners aren’t taking lessons in the dark and how you can support them to do this.

Why is driving in the dark important?

Some of the skills required for driving in the dark are different from those needed for driving in daylight.

Things like spotting hazards in reduced visibility and overtaking at night are skills that your pupils should be practising with a professional, before doing it independently.

Our research showed that 17.5% of learners who responded to the survey had no experience of driving at night before taking their test.

A further 22% said they’d driven in the dark for less than 2 hours before taking their test.

This means potentially 100,000 learners who pass their test each year, might be doing this without having ever practised driving in the dark.

With 35% of all road accidents involving young drivers happening at night, we want to understand why more learners aren’t practising more in the dark so we can help reduce this figure.

Support from the industry

We’ve worked closely with NASP (National Associations Strategic Partnership) on this part of the campaign and their view on the importance of lessons in the dark is the same as ours.

Being exposed to driving after dark, amongst other challenging driving conditions, is an essential part of learning to drive.

Acquiring the necessary experience and skills to manage these key areas of driving risk is vital preparation for pupils becoming independent drivers. NASP believes it is crucial both trainers and parents ensure learners have this opportunity pre-test.

What prevents you from taking your pupils out in the dark?

To help understand what prevents you and your pupils from taking lessons in the dark we sent you a survey last October.

The table shows what you said prevents you and your pupils from practising driving in the dark.

% who agreed
My pupils learn in the summer 64%
My pupils struggle to do early or late 59%
I struggle to do early or late 31%
I think it’s less of a priority 7%
My pupils don't think they'll need it post-test 6%
I prefer to teach this post-test 5%

We did some initial telephone interviews with learner drivers to see what they thought about practising in the dark. They told us:

No - I haven't had any experience of driving in the dark. I think it will be important because it reflects a real-world experience.

Not really no… I don’t think it’s that big of an issue to be honest. Even if it’s dark, the streets are well lit and I've got my headlights anyway, so...

Ideally, I could do with more of course… at the end of the day when I do my actual test it won’t be in the dark, it will be in the morning.

We’ll be carrying out more research over the next few months to give us a better understanding of why your pupils struggle to do early and late lessons, and to hear from them why they aren’t driving in the dark.

Using private practice

With most pupils, you should be able to plan in lessons where they can practice driving in the dark. However, there might be times when you can’t.

Try to fit in at least 1 or 2 lessons in the dark, a couple of hours of professional tuition is much better than none at all. You should also talk to them about how they’d handle different situations they might face when driving in the dark.

But, once they’ve done this with you, the best way for them to get more practise could be with a friend or family member.

Your pupils can record any additional practice they do in the DVSA driver’s record and talk to you about their experience in their next lesson.

Using our official publications

Our Learning To Drive book is a good guide for an accompanying driver.

It outlines what the learner should be covering in their lessons and how private practice can help with this.

If you order from our official publishers TSO (The Stationery Office) you can use the discount code ADI1 to get 25% off our publications.

Promoting the benefits of practising driving in the dark

With long nights and short days, February is a good time to encourage learners to practise driving in the dark.

We’ll be promoting the benefits of driving in the dark to learners on our social media channels and in the media.

You can help support our campaign by sharing our social media messages with your pupils and encouraging them to book a lesson in the dark.

Later in the month we’ll update you on the progress of our campaign to encourage learner drivers to spend more time driving independently and share our early research findings on this with you.

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by G posted on

    Why would learners want to have lessons in the dark when one of their manoeuvres for their test is an offence in the dark?

    • Replies to G>

      Comment by Olivia (DVSA) posted on

      Hi, thanks for your comment. Learners should experience a broad range of driving conditions before taking their test, so they’re prepared for driving on their own. The Highway Code states you must not park against the flow of traffic at night; unless in a recognised parking space. We’re not suggesting learners use this lesson time to practise the pull up on the right parking manoeuvre at night. Instead, we think it’s important they experience what it’s like to drive on the road in these conditions.

  2. Comment by Graham Carroll posted on

    In 10 yrs of driving training, I can't recall any pupil that needed encouragement to carry out some lessons in the dark, it's simply a matter of logistics as confirmed by your survey.

  3. Comment by Yassin Abdi posted on

    I think it's very useful for all of us. I Al really giving lessons in the dark for some of my students and it is very good experience for their driving skills.

  4. Comment by P.Hatton posted on

    We are not robots as we coach during the daytime, I would be to tired by the evening and I do know this also applies to the students after a days work or studying.we do have family commitments.
    I therefore feel I would be irresponsible to work into the evening.

  5. Comment by Roger Baines posted on

    Most students take between 6 to 9 months to learn to drive--At some point there will be shorter days which means driving in the twilight (which is the most difficult for them) and the dark--I don't see why it is not possible for any Normal Experienced Instructor to plan lessons in the dark as a matter of course-- Bad instruction if they do not--Can't see why you should have to raise this as an issue--just make it mandatory that student must take x number of lessons in the dark--PROBLEM SOLVED.

    • Replies to Roger Baines>

      Comment by Clive Geary posted on

      Make pass plus compulsory post test.

  6. Comment by James Mcaleer posted on

    If you offered tests in the dark the public would immediately see the importance.

  7. Comment by Craig posted on

    I think that it’s great that 83% didn’t see this as an issue. However, totally accept too that for a complete learning to drive experience then driving at night is a good idea. But there is a safety issue here too. Extending the working hours of an ADI inpacts on their ability to offer a quality product. Many students are available during the day, fewer are available after dark. Personally I don’t want to be working to 8pm every night, longer in summer, which I would have to do to accommodate all students. Private practice however is the way forward. Personally, I would want to charge more for lessons after a certain time, then students won’t pay for it. Perhaps the DVSA could consider implementing a mandatory learning period of 12 months, covering a minimum of 40 hours of which at least two should be night driving. I’m confident that ADIs would approve. Of this. But, for whatever reason, as much as the DVSA want to improve road safety they rely on the humble ADI to deliver what they (the DVSA) consider to be important. Contrary to what you might think, ADIs are pretty conscientious people. But we are also self employed and you cannot force a self employed person to work outside of what they consider to be their current work life balance.

    • Replies to Craig>

      Comment by Graham Carroll posted on

      You make a very valid point, most adi 's are conscientious, however the amount of responsibility the dvsa wants to load onto our shoulders, is disproportionate to our status and earnings.

  8. Comment by Tim Clayton posted on

    It does seem just common sense for all conscientious ADIs, and students, perhaps, to recognise the need for dark-driving. (It’s the same argument as not learning a huge roundabout because a driver asserts they’ll never drive there: they may get diverted there against their will). Once that’s agreed, I’m sure there’s no logistic barrier to one or two dark/dusk lessons; simple self-preservation makes me want better equipped NQDs (newly qualified drivers) around me on the road!

  9. Comment by Peter James Broad posted on

    Night driving experience:
    All new drivers should have at least two hours experience,pre test, driving on all types of road, including rural roads (most important ) fast single/dual carriageways and motorways if available.
    Any ADI worth their salt, knows they are guilty of not teaching driving as a life skill if that is not done.
    Forget all the excuses, the main reason this is not covered properly is that it is not a tested item of the learning sylabus ( similar to motorway driving, railway level crossings etc ) and hand on heart, all ADI s, even the most consciensious,are guilty ( to a greater or lesser extent )of teaching to the test sylabus in order to retain their
    Business and deliver a full licence to their pupils.
    We all know the solution
    Kind regards

  10. Comment by Fran James posted on

    "Our initial research found that 89% of learners we surveyed said their instructor had the most influence on them feeling ready for test. We’d like to work with you over the next few months to make sure learner drivers are broadening their experience before taking their test, starting with driving in the dark".

    That is a quote from the early paragraphs of this blog.

    While I commend DVSA for ANY initiative which improves the standard of driving learners acquire, the statement that 89% rely on their instructor to make them feel ready for their test is frightening.

    Although it is undoubtedly an advantage for anyone to cope with driving in the dark, I humbly suggest that, in the first instance, instructors teach their pupils to drive in the daylight. The standard brought to the test by many ADI's clearly highlights the fact that this basic requirement is not being carried out. Being encouraged to have extra lessons in the dark will result in one thing; they won't bother.

  11. Comment by Ian hallwood posted on

    If it’s an essential part of driving why not do tests in the evening ????????? Time management works

  12. Comment by KT posted on

    Nearly all of my driving practice was is the dark because of my December birthday - although it’s harder to spot unlit pedestrians, it’s much easier to spot cars coming round corners etc. I found it a bit unnerving in daylight!

  13. Comment by John Grayson posted on

    It’s important learners learn to drive in as many different conditions as they can. If possible, early morning rush hour, school times, rural roads, motorways, multi storey car parks etc. I even take some of my more advanced pupils out in the snow or fog as an opportunity to drive in such conditions, so differing weathers are also advisable to drive in. Night driving is just another one of those conditions. It’s not always possible to cover all things due to lesson times and logistics, but if a pupil is at a really good standard and there is time I do these ‘extras’.

  14. Comment by Ayub Khan posted on

    In order to get pupils to do anything that will not be required during the test is quite impossible. They want minimum lessons to pass, not to learn this life long skill. However as suggested by many February is a good time as you can teach in the dark & still get home in time for the 6pm news.

  15. Comment by Emma Ashley posted on

    Things are constantly being added to the test syllabus and things that we should teach e.g., Motorways, Night Driving, Rural Roads etc. In addition we are having to work on busier roads with higher volumes of traffic and more complex road layouts. We also have a class of pupils some of whom are largely incapable of independent thinking and distracted by the simplest thing. Yet the estimate for recommended number of lessons stubbornly refuses to move! When it comes to private practice the vast majority have none at all and the minority have loads; nobody has just 20 hours!

    Working with us? No. You are dumping more expectations on us, either directly or indirectly, and more responsibility too.

  16. Comment by James Leather posted on

    When the DVSA start to make their examiners work in the dark, I might decide to work in the dark as well.

    As you seem to want us to work shifts maybe you could do a 6 days on 4 days off, 24 hour shift pattern for your examiners as well. That would help the waiting lists go down.

  17. Comment by mike bassett adi posted on

    our job is to teach what pupils will find out there. So everyone of my pupils drives at night, over the winter times. In summer months we go out late moving from twilight into the dark.
    As I control my diary, I plan when I do the sessions. Yes, pupils will be tired after a long day, be they adult or teenager - this is your opportunity to teach about fatigue and the pupil to feel what it is like under supervision. Yes, you can pull over and park on the right and reverse. In real life everyone does - so you are teaching real life situations.
    and, as instructors, there is also the motorway at night - different traffic volumes and types to consider.

  18. Comment by Steve Young posted on

    I have been an instructor for over 38years. Safety during lessons is paramount. The DSA, now rebranded the DVSA, are great at bring in what an ADI should be teaching, but the don't care about how it is really implemented. I do offer lessons in the dark, not all pupils want or can have them due to their family commitments, but please remember we as ADI's have family's too. I honestly don't think examiners would be asked to stay on late for tests in the dark, there would be an uproar and strike action. This job is complex enough, with parents thinking their son or daughter only need 20 hrs to pass the test, Come on DVSA make it compulsory for learner drivers to have the minimum lessons required, that you recommend.

  19. Comment by Jeremy Fox DVSA ADI posted on

    In June July and August it doesn't get fully dark until 10.30 PM. Is it reasonable to expect me to go out to reach at that time of day? I have customers who want daytime lessons and others that want PM lessons but none of them want a 10 PM lesson. The PM ones will have dark lessons during the winter months just due to the time it gets dark. I do have a family and a disabled wife and it's a requirement of mine that I finish work by 7.30 ,PM at the latest.
    I live in quite a poor area and parents cant afford the extra premiums on their insurance to enable any kind of practice whether independent or not. The DVSA have to remember that I don't work for them. I'm self employed and have a reasonable work/life balance I don't like the idea of anyone interfering with that. They also need to remember that not all families have the funds to be able to afford driving lessons for their kids AND pay extra premiums on insurance to enable them to private practice. Some of them cant even afford an internet connection. The DVSA needs to put its money where its mouth is and make dark lessons part of the test. That way we'll all have to teach it - it won't be popular with learners, ADIs and examiners though.

    Ive been an ADI for 33 years. I remember that, about 15 years ago, The Institute of Advancex Motorists had a campaign about making night driving part of the test but clearly it didn't go anywhere. It's also a bit hypocritical if them because they only perform the qualification tests during the day!
    Do we go the Australian way of graduated qualification? Curfews,
    a limit on passengers etc. How unpopular would that be?