Analysis of government figures has revealed that driving tests taken by women over the age of 50 has increased by nearly a third (31%) compared with four years earlier, reaching 17,464 in 2017-18.
Those passing their test jumped over the same period, by 33%, from 4,033 to 5,350.
Motoring experts have said that the trend could partly be explained by divorce, as women who could previously rely on their partners are forced to become more independent.
More than 101,000 couples divorced in 2017. The divorce rate of women between 55 and 59 was 5.8 per 1,000 couples, up from 5.2 ten years earlier.
Edmund King, president of the AA, told the Sunday Times: “Some women may not have had a driving licence but, following divorce and perhaps moving out of the family home, they find that they need to drive.”
The trend, discovered in figures published by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, may also be a result of “urban flight” – when people move from cities to rural areas where public transport can be unreliable.
Jim O’Sullivan, head of Highways England, told a conference last month that the fastest-growing demographic among motorists is “women in their fifties learning to drive for the first time”.
He said: “They give up living in the city, where they downsize and move out of town, where buses or Tubes [trains] aren’t reliable and they have to learn”.
According to the Office for National Statistics, 121,000 more people moved out of cities than into them in the year to July 2017, with 558,000 moving into rural areas and 437,000 into urban environments.
Margaret Parsons, 60, who will take her driving test on Tuesday, told the Sunday Times that her decision to get behind the wheel was a result of moving from Scarborough, North Yorkshire to the nearby village of Burniston.
She said: “We have one bus an hour, which is not really convenient. I never needed to drive before. My children drive and that’s the wrong way around, isn’t it?”