POOR LITERACY and numeracy are prime causes of unlicensed driving on our roads, the Basic Skills Agency has warned.
There are an estimated 800,000 adults in the UK taking to the wheel without licences - around one driver in 40 - according to the Automobile Association.
The AA believes many of these unlicensed drivers fear their poor basic skills mean they have no chance of passing the theory part of the driving test.
In response, the agency and the Department for Education and Employment have produced a new learning pack to help these adults.
"The introduction of the new written driving theory tests was a worry for many people with poor basic skills," says an agency spokeswoman.
"For adults who may have had bad experiences at school, or who would be scared by the idea of having to study for something called 'theory', the test is a real demotivator."
A new touch-screen theory test introduced in January to replace the written test has made it more accessible, says the agency.
"But working towards it will still prove difficult for an adult with poor literacy and numeracy."
The nw learning pack - called Getting Up To Speed - is aimed at helping adults who lack confidence in reading and writing to get through the driving test.
It also aims to improve basic skills for existing drivers. Using newspaper cuttings, case studies and activities, the pack covers a range of subjects, including road safety, basic car maintenance and the Highway Code.
The initiative builds on the work of projects such as the Manchester Foyerwhich use driving to help adults to improve basic skills and tackle the written theory test (see above).
Another project is run by the Sudanese People's Support Association and offers training in basic driving skills for refugees who have difficulties with English.
Andrew Howard, head of road safety for the AA, said its research had found a group of unlicensed drivers who cited difficulty with the theory part of the test, linked to poor literacy.
"It is easy to think that anyone can pass the practical test eventually, given good training. But there may be an unfortunate group of people out there who believe they will never pass the theory test."