Learner Drivers: Coming Soon to a Motorway Near You?
News entry dated 03rd Jan 2017

It’s always been a rather strange anomaly that learner drivers in Britain are not allowed to drive on motorways as part of their driving instruction. However, as soon as a new driver has passed their test, they are free to immediately drive on faster and more hectic roads than they are likely to have experienced before.

Driving schools and instructors often encourage new drivers to undertake at least one motorway lesson once they’ve qualified for their full license but, let’s be honest, we don’t often hear of many people who do this!

All this is set to change, with the news that novice drivers will finally be allowed on the UK’s motorways while they are still learning, as part of a set of proposals put forward by ministers.

Motorway driving

The proposals are sure to divide opinion; While the thought of learners on fast, busy motorways may cause concern to other drivers, it’s arguably a better scenario than seeing newly qualified drivers take to these roads for the first time with no supervision. There’s also concern that a lack of experience on motorways is causing some new drivers to choose minor roads for their journeys – roads where they’re actually statistically more likely to have an accident.

Dual Controls

One detail that may put some minds at rest is that the proposal only involves learners driving on motorways under the supervision of trained instructors with dual-control cars. This means it won’t merely be a case of a family member slapping some L-plates onto a car and taking an inexperienced driver onto the M25!

Other Potential Changes

This law change is just one of a raft of measures the government has come up with to make Britain’s roads safer. There is also a plan to make all trainee motorcycle / moped riders complete a theory test before they can pass their Compulsory Basic Training (CBT). Furthermore, should all the proposed measures be implemented, motorbike drivers on a provisional license will be banned after just six penalty points.

The new measures don’t focus purely on new drivers. According to reports, ministers are also considering potential life sentences for people who cause death by dangerous driving as a result of using a mobile phone at the wheel – an offense that currently carries a maximum 14-year sentence.

Time will tell as to exactly what measures are implemented. However, reports suggest that some previously discussed proposals, including making youngsters wait until they’re 18 to pass their test, and the implementation of a mandatory 120 hours of supervised driving, will not be taken forward.

How do you feel about the prospect of learner drivers being allowed on motorways? Let us know in the comments.

IMAGE CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons

Martin Underwood January 10, 2017

About time. I hope anyone who plans to drive on a motorway gets some training, either before their test or else (as now) after their test. The instructor is probably best placed to decide when a student is safe to drive on a motorway, in the same way they decide when a student is safe to move on from max-30 urban roads to 60 mph single and dual-carriageway roads.

Ideally new drivers need to show that they can drive safely on a motorway *for a long journey* and that they don't become fatigued after a while - or at least, that they can anticipate when this will happen so they know when to stop for a break before it happens.

The present situation, in which a driver is deemed to be safe to drive on a motorway the day after they pass their test, maybe without ever having driven on one beforehand, is clearly dangerous.

E Gardiner January 9, 2017

When I passed my test some 35 years ago I took up an offer from my then brother-in-law - a serving police officer with specialist driving skills - to teach me motorway driving. Fantastic experience.
He stressed that joining and leaving the motorway could be the most hazardous parts and, on the first day, got me driving on and off a section of the M4 for over an hour. We went out again a few days later and he just sat with me as an observer. He gave me tremendous confidence and I'll always be grateful to him for giving me those lessons.

clem ansell January 6, 2017

I used to be a driving instructor, and I think its a good idea, as people forget the rule keep to the left except when overtaking, a lot of people forget that when they get on a motorway, ie:; sit in the middle lane doing 50 mph with no other cars on the inside lane, having said that I used to give an option after the test a 2 hour lesson on a motorway and 2 hours in London, nobody took the motorway one up, but lots took the London one

Peter Donnelly January 6, 2017

I note a comment on mobile phone use. There are some drivers who cannot multi-task !!! If that be talking to a passenger with the drivers head turned 90degrees, or concentrating on the phone call rather than the driving. We have all been behind them. Or looking round to chat to the toddler in the child seat, while driving slowly because its safer !
Too many to list, and as James says no policing, just speeding fines from cameras painted the dullest yellow they could find ! And camera vans tucked into the bushes, meanwhile the driver on or below the limit who has just nearly wiped you out sails past. It is not just phones, but how do we now change attitudes of drivers and make DRIVING the priority whatever is going on in the car, and that goes for all types of vehicle drivers. We are all wishing ourselves into self driving cars. Can you imagine a worse hell , yes ! DRONES delivering everything, i'm buying a super powerful catapult in-case.

Peter Donnelly January 6, 2017

Driving on a motorway is actually relatively easy and involves just a little more training. The issue is the difference in speed, and that those drivers travelling at a significant figures over the limit are still, mostly, not prepared to accept that they are the ones who have to anticipate and make allowances.
Pay attention to the cars on the inner lane, we can see they may need to pull out so either get past them or drop back if possible or change lanes yourself so they can pull, you can always make up the 20 seconds you may lose !
I would have welcomed the extra teaching, it would have given me more confidence and made me less hesitant in the beginning, a factor other drivers around you dislike !
Unless it is compulsory in the test the cost will put people off. Young drivers being the less likely to have the money after they have bought the car, insured it, taxed it and filled it with fuel.
The key is the very poor driving skills of the average driver with a licence ! NOT the learners, so not only teach them what to do and what NOT to do, but explain what they can expect of the poor driving skills which are to blame for the significant proportion of accidents on motorways (which included slowing to stare at 'An Accident') from fully licensed drivers.
There are plenty of slow car drivers on motorway already, ask a lorry driver, equally as dangerous as speeding, training will help new drivers to maintain a level of speed, and ensure they fully get overtaking is not charging out into gap then sticking your brakes on and that until you can see the car you have overtaken in your rear window don't pull back in however hard you are being pressed from behind. Please give us more room before pulling back in when its rained and we get obliterated by your spray !! Also learn to speed up overtake then pull back and drop the speed off, not creep past at a pace lower than the traffic in that, usually middle, lane. We need to teach drivers to let people out, not empower themselves by trapping people in. May I add IF you can see any of your own car in your wing mirrors they are in the wrong place the 3 mirrors should make up a panoramic rear view.
Learner drivers on motorways are perfectly OK, if the licensed drivers were less aggressive and possessive, AND DISTRACTED, Drive the flaming car as if you life depended on it, because it does, along with the lives of others.
We cannot have the learner driver discussion without the licensed driver discussion.

Xander Hutchison January 6, 2017

I agree it is about time that L drivers did use the motorway during lessons. It may prove difficult when learners live miles away from motorways though, this would be a disadvantage for them. Like from my town it can take up to an hour to reach a motorway in the first place.

Debbie Foskett January 6, 2017

It's about time. Having some instruction for learner drivers on how to drive on a motorway is welcome news.

    Susan Stead January 6, 2017

    I agree that there should be motorway instruction for EXPERIENCED learners, however, I would prefer it to be COMPULSORY AFTER they have passed their test... two extra lessons. Most tutors already offer this service, but because it isn't law, most students don't want to pay the extra for the experience. If insurance companies would reward these drivers with a percentage reduction then that would be quite a good incentive too.

Robert Barge January 6, 2017

I see no problem with learner drivers getting instruction on the motorways with qualified instructors in dual controlled cars.
I tried to give my son some motorway experience after he had passed his test many years ago. I wasn't very good in instructing him although I was an experienced motorway driver.
I think it has to be by qualified instructors and definitely in dual controlled cars.

JIM WHITTAKER January 5, 2017

Good idea. ADI's cars fitted with dual controls normally have signs to that effect on them, so the police should stop anyone with just L plates on. I agree they should pass test first then have 4 half hour lessons on a motorway to attain a full driving licence. I would go further by making it a requirement for all learners to have 4 half hour lessons on a skid pan before they can take their test. This would increase their car control and confidence, and would make them better prepared for driving solo.

cherub angel January 5, 2017

Before drivers are given a full drivers licence, it should be compulsory that theres a further test on the motorway, but only once youve past the minor road tests

Les Cazin January 5, 2017

I have been driving for 56 years and have always considered that newly qualified drivers should not be allowed to drive on motorways until they have had both a minimum of one years driving on normal roads followed by at least several hours further tuition on motorways.

Part of the driving tuition and basic test should also be several hours on a motorway simulator in the same way that airline pilots are trained and refreshed.

I also feel that first year drivers should be restricted to 55 MPH and not allowed to drive vehicles over an agreed engine capacity

Brian Hammond January 5, 2017

I've just seen the ex-Policeman's comment: I hadn't thought of places too far from a motorway for it to be practical to take motorway driving as part of an advanced driving course. However, in this technological age, wouldn't the use of a simulator be a good move? Much cheaper (and less polluting!) than actually driving.

ron borer January 5, 2017

I think it is a good idea to be done just before they take their driving test while with a qualified driver rather than driving on a motorway on their own for the first time.That way any driving faults can be picked up,explained & acted on as with any driving lesson

Brian Hammond January 5, 2017

I believe that it would be better to adopt the 'P' plate for those who have passed ONLY the basic driving test and then, after a short period of driving experience, to have to take a course of advanced driving instruction before allowing them on the motorways.

Pete Solo January 5, 2017

Judging by the way some people drive on motorways, learner drivers should have a separate test to be able to drive safely on motorways. Many accidents are the result of poor advance planning (ie- getting into the left hand lane well before the junction you plan to exit the road). This needs to be taught correctly.

This additional test should be taken as a second part of the driving test. In order to be able to drive on any motorway, both tests would need to be passed.

There should be a time limit set to encourage all drivers to sit for the motorway part of the test.

Aside from this, many A roads are similar to motorways and anyone passing their test is currently able to drive on much faster roads than they would have had experience of doing when they were taking driving lessons.

John Crook January 5, 2017

I think that once the test has been passed, which shows a certain level of competence, then a certificate must be issued by a driving school to state that the learner has had at least two hours additional instruction on the motorway, post test before the driver can be issued with the full licence. Anything else would be very dangerous. I see poor motorway driving everyday as an HGV driver and that's with people who have passed their test.

David Sweetland January 5, 2017

I drive on the M1 every morning and evening and see so many silly antics and lack of lane discipline that I am fully in favour of supervised motorway instruction for trainee drivers. If hourly rates for instruction were discountable for block bookings or other incentives I would also back the [now defunct] 120 hours of tuition.

mike owen January 5, 2017

About 10 years ago, I took a learner friend on to the A1 which was just as hectic as most motorways. All perfectly legit. The guy did really, really well, but had had enough after about 20 minutes - exhilarated but drained by the experience. He was doing 55/60 most of the time.

His main concern was the inappropriate behaviour of other drivers. OK, his trip on the A1 did not include any difficult junctions - that was not in the plan. It was simply to get him used to driving more quickly than normal and improve his confidence. He passed his driving test a few weeks later.

    Martin Underwood January 10, 2017

    Driving on the A1 used to be far more scary than a motorway, because of the junctions that allowed cars to turn right, across the traffic coming from the right, and then having to cross Lane 2 of the carriageway that they are joining in order to reach Lane 1 where they can accelerate up to speed - even worse when the vehicle doing this is a tractor or HGV :-( I once saw a tractor stop in the central reservation with his back end overhanging well into Lane 2 - and not even a numberplate or lights on the trailer... Thankfully all (?) those junctions on the A1 in North Yorkshire have closed and all the roundabouts have been removed; I was rather alarmed to find both on the older southern section in Hertfordshire a few months ago.

    Then there are the petrol stations with absurdly short acceleration lanes: on my trip down south in Novermber I pulled in to one for fuel and then had a nerve-wracking time waiting for a long enough gap to be able to accelerate back to 70 before being rear-ended. Interestingly all the cars ignored me; it took an HGV, used to acceleration problems, to move into Lane 2 (and deliberatley take his time, blocking Lane 1 for a moment) so I could pull into Lane 1 to accelerate. Even then, some silly idiot tried to undertake him and only saw me at the last minute as he swerved from Lane 2 (where he'd been before I started to pull out - I *did* check!) into Lane 1.

    Give me a proper motorway, with grade-sep junctions, no gaps in the central reservation and long acceleration lanes at junctions, rather than the A1 where it's not motorway standard.

DAVID AL2 3PY January 5, 2017

My daughter took motorway driving lessons after passing her test. Said it was the best money she had ever spent. Motorway driving is totally different to driving on A roads and should be treated as such. Therefore, the driving test should be in two parts, part 1 Town & main roads, and part 2 Motorway. And you can't pass 2 until you have passed part 1.

Rod Came January 5, 2017

As a Police traffic patrol officer in a previous life and now a driving instructor (ADI), I welcome the proposal that learner drivers should be allowed on motorways, but only with an ADI in a dual controlled car. After a new driver has their full licence in their hand there is no incentive to take extra training, but motorway lessons could easily be included in the driver training syllabus before a driving test. ADIs are professional instructors and will not risk their car or their life, by taking a person whose driving ability is not up to a suitable standard, onto a motorway. A further test would be an unnecessary complication, and no government is going to introduce such an unpopular move.

Unfortunately there are still many areas of the country that do not have close motorway access, even Hastings on the south coast is an hour away from the nearest motorway or dual-carriageway. An hour to get there, an hour to get back and two hours on the motorway, 4 hours at £25/30 an hour = £100+. There is little chance of a new driver, before or after obtaining a full licence, paying that amount of money to gain motorway experience, so the problem of inexperienced drivers on motorways will still exist.