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Figures show 40 learners caught using driving test impersonators each year

More than 40 learners are caught using impersonators to take driving tests each year, new figures show.

Some 209 were convicted from 2012/13 to 2016/17, according to data published by Transport Minister Andrew Jones.

Motoring experts warned that offenders are putting "everyone's lives at risk".

More than half (53%) of all cases were dealt with by the Metropolitan Police.

A further 111 people were convicted of taking the practical or theory tests on behalf of others.

Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, told the Press Association: " With only half of candidates passing their driving test first time, you can see why some could be tempted to guarantee their success by hiring an impersonator.

"By being prepared to get behind the wheel by fair means or foul, people hiring impersonators put everyone's lives at risk because neither we nor they have any idea whether their driving meets the required standard.

"Our strong road safety record is built on three pillars - roadworthy vehicles, responsibly driven by properly qualified drivers. This sort of behaviour is flagrantly kicking one of those pillars away."

Over the last five years, more than 1,100 licences have been revoked due to evidence that they were obtained fraudulently.

Mr Jones, who published the figures in response to a parliamentary question by Lincoln MP Karl McCartney, said the majority of investigations into impersonation are conducted by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) until there is enough evidence to support an arrest and prosecution.

In September 2016 a man was given a two-year prison sentence at Croydon Crown Court, south-east London, after taking a series of car, motorcycle and lorry theory tests on behalf of other people.

Andy Rice, the DVSA's h ead of counter-fraud and investigations, said: " The driving test is there to ensure that all drivers have the skills and knowledge to use the roads safely and responsibly.

"Anyone who tries to circumvent this process is putting innocent road users at risk.

"Driving test fraud is a serious offence and is dealt with accordingly. We have stringent measures in place to detect fraudulent activity and work closely with the police to bring all offenders to justice.

"Thankfully, this type of crime is extremely rare."

About 1.5 million practical and 1.9 million theory tests are taken each year.

:: Here is a breakdown of the number of people convicted in the past five years for a) using an impersonator to take a driving test and b) impersonating a candidate at a driving test:

2012/13 - 45, 12

2013/14 - 44, 22

2014/15 - 39, 26

2015/16 - 44, 23

2016/17 - 37, 28

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