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The UK’s Motoring Firsts: Kwik Fit’s Survey Findings

Jack Dreyer | Wednesday 10th August 2022 9:00am

Woman sitting in the drivers seat shaking the instructors hand after passing her driving test

Do you remember when you passed your test? How about your first flat tyre?

With that ‘pass’ certificate comes a whole host of new experiences, from that first time driving down narrow country lanes to your first trip with a car full of passengers. We wanted to get some insight from the general public on these motoring ‘firsts’ — when & where they happen, and how they make us feel.

With an estimated 35.9 million drivers on the roads in England, there are some fascinating differences and similarities between different regions, ages, and sexes when it comes to their first motoring experiences. Let’s dive into what we found.

How long since you passed your test?

The first thing we asked participants was how long it had been since that fateful day. There was a pretty even spread throughout the years, but most people (59%, in fact), had been on the road for more than 10 years.

As for those not driving, 17% of the UK adult population had never passed a driving test - and just 3% were learning to drive at the time of the survey.

Interestingly, the London area is the place with the most learner drivers, coming in at 8%. We’d have thought this would be an area with fewer learners due to the public transport system there – but evidently not! What do you think?

Time driving by region

Where in the UK would you expect there to be a larger percentage of people that had never passed a test?

We found that the North of England had the fewest qualified drivers, with 22% and 20% of people in the North West and North East (respectively) having never passed a test. London was not far behind at 20% – so maybe our theory about the public transport system there holds some truth?

The East of England, on the other hand, had the highest percentage of experienced drivers, with 71% of those surveyed having passed more than 10 years ago. This was closely followed by Wales at 70%.

And when it comes to new drivers, London had the highest percentage of drivers that had passed in the last year, at 13%.

The experience of driving ‘firsts’

From your first time on the motorway to your first time re-fuelling at the petrol station, there are plenty of ‘first times’ when it comes to driving. Which experiences are the most common in the first 6 months on the road? Where do they happen most frequently? And which, perhaps more interestingly, are the most stressful?

More flat tyres in the West Midlands

Person sitting out their vehicle with the door open after getting a flat tyre

Our research shows that the West Midlands has the highest occurrence of flat tyres, with 72% of those surveyed there having experienced a flat in their first 6 years of driving.

If that doesn’t surprise you, this might — within the first year of driving alone, 39% of drivers in the West Midlands experienced a flat tyre. In London, new drivers were hit even harder, as 44% dealt with this in the first year.

Could this be due to potholes and driving conditions in the area? Our Kwik Fit PIT Report 2022 reveals record pothole damage repair bill of £1.7bn over last year.

Your first 6 months on the road

We were curious to find out when in their driving journey those surveyed experienced some of those pivotal ‘first’ moments. It turns out that a whole lot happens in just half a year!

'Driving first' experience % that experienced it within their first 6 months on the road
Getting a flat tyre on your car 19%
Taking your car for an MOT 20%
A warning light on the dashboard 24%
Your car breaking down 19%
Driving through narrow country lanes 67%
Driving on a motorway 63%
Driving a long journey (over 100 miles) 40%
Parallel parking 78%
Parking in a multi-storey car park 62%
Putting fuel in your car 88%
Driving through a drive-through restaurant 34%
Driving with a car full of passengers 68%

There are some inevitable results here — for example, 88% of those surveyed had to refuel in the first 6 months of passing their test.

But there are some fascinating insights here, too.

For example, only 40% drove over 100 miles in one sitting — perhaps because it takes the confidence of experience to feel comfortable driving for that long. We also found that more people drove down country lanes (67%) than on a motorway (63%). Could this be partly due to that same hesitation to drive too far from home as a new driver?

When it comes to maintenance & repair, 19% experienced a flat, 24% got a warning light, and 19% experienced a breakdown within the first 6 months. Now, as we found out, these are ranked as some of the most stressful experiences as a new driver!

Woman stuck on a the side of a road after breaking down

The most stressful driving ‘firsts’

Out of all the motoring events that new drivers experience, which are the most stressful to experience for the first time? Take a look at what we found.

Motoring event % of the population that found it stressful when experiencing it for the first time
Getting a flat tyre on your car 65%
Taking your car for an MOT 34%
A warning light on the dashboard 24%
Your car breaking down 19%
Driving through narrow country lanes 67%
Driving on a motorway 63%
Driving a long journey (over 100 miles) 40%
Parallel parking 78%
Parking in a multi-storey car park 62%
Putting fuel in your car 88%
Driving abroad (driving on the right) 56%
Driving a rental car 40%
Driving through a drive-through restaurant 34%
Driving with a car full of passengers 68%

It’s clear that car breakdowns were considered the worst thing to experience out of all of these motoring firsts, with 74% of respondents finding this stressful. Following that is ‘a warning light on the dashboard’, with 61% of drivers finding this experience stressful when it happened for the first time.

So when it comes to breakdowns — the most stressful driving ‘first’ — who experiences the most stress?

Males or females?

Between male & female participants, slightly more female participants found car breakdowns stressful. 41% of female participants said that experiencing this for the first time was extremely stressful, compared to 27% of males.

Altogether, though, both sexes agree that it’s a tough one, with 69% of males and 79% of females finding it anxiety-inducing overall.

Older or younger?

As for age, older age groups found their first breakdown more stressful than younger age groups — or, at least, remember it as more stressful.

Could this be due to some sort of opposite nostalgia, where those initial stressful experiences are looked back on as worse?

Or is it, perhaps, that there is now an easier way to call for help when breaking down, making breakdowns generally less stressful for young drivers today?

Rather than finding a phone box and trying to remember the number of a recovery provider, most people now have a breakdown number on speed dial.

Percentage of respondents who found this experience stressful when experienced for the first time

Age 18 - 34 Age 35 - 54 Age 55+
Breakdown 67% 77% 74%
Driving on country lanes 48% 43% 28%
Taking your car for its MOT 43% 38% 26%
Parallel parking 51% 45% 35%
Two cars parked next to each other on the side of the road

As you can see in the table above, there’s not a strict pattern when it comes to stressful first driving experiences and age. It would be untrue, for example, to say that older groups recall all experiences as more stressful, or that younger groups were more blasé, or vice versa.

Take country lanes, for example. Younger groups reported that their first time driving down country roads was more stressful than older groups found it.

We wonder if this could be because narrow roads were more the norm for older age groups. Because of this, they may have been more likely to learn on these smaller country lanes than learners today.

Within the last couple of decades, though, motorway driving and larger A-roads have become more common, which might explain why country lanes are an unfamiliar and distressing experience for younger drivers.

When it comes to MOTs, younger groups found their first one much more stressful than older groups. The MOT criteria has evolved to be much more stringent in recent years, so this might have a part to play in this figure.

Location?

People in the South East found their first breakdown the most stressful of all regions in the UK, with 83% reporting that it was anxiety-inducing, compared to only 64% in the West Midlands. That’s quite a difference!

As for country lanes, 14% of respondents from London found it extremely stressful to drive them for the first time. This makes sense, because London drivers don’t tend to need to use country lanes to get around their local area.

By contrast, in the East of England, only 4% of respondents found this extremely stressful!

A narrow countryside road

More survey findings

Keep your eyes peeled for more intriguing findings — from the stress new drivers experience with parking, to how soon after passing their test people use drive-thrus.

And if you’re a new driver in need of some mechanical advice or repair, don’t hesitate to give us a call!




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