Learner Drivers: Coming Soon to a Motorway Near You?

By Ben Taylor
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, PD

Comments

46 Comments on "Learner Drivers: Coming Soon to a Motorway Near You?"

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Lynda Gage
Lynda Gage

I think it should be part of the learning process. I was very lucky to live in Edinburgh and quite often the last part of my 2hr lesson was on the bypass and I am so grateful for that. The motorway can be daunting for some, unfortunately others see it as a place to test the capability of their vehicles. For those wanting to become safe,competent drivers, this is one very good reason to learn about driving on the motorway.

Martin Underwood
Martin Underwood
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,… Read more »
E Gardiner
E Gardiner
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… Read more »
clem ansell
clem ansell

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
Peter Donnelly
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… Read more »
Peter Donnelly
Peter Donnelly
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… Read more »
Xander Hutchison
Xander Hutchison

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
Debbie Foskett

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

Susan Stead
Susan Stead

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
Robert Barge

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
JIM WHITTAKER

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
cherub angel

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
Les Cazin

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
Brian Hammond

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
ron borer

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
Brian Hammond

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
Pete Solo
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… Read more »
John Crook
John Crook

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
David Sweetland

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
mike owen
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… Read more »
Martin Underwood
Martin Underwood
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… Read more »
DAVID AL2 3PY
DAVID AL2 3PY

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
Rod Came
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,… Read more »
MALCOLM BROOK
MALCOLM BROOK

I think that my feelings are “about time.” learners need to have experience on ALL our roads not just experience of 70 mph on dual carriage ways. They are a totally different experience.

Adrian Lumby
Adrian Lumby

Good Idea but they should have passed their road test before they take to the M ways, be restricted to A roads until they have completed M way training and then passed another test to see that they are competent to drive on the M ways

andy whitehead
andy whitehead

Quite scary that learners could be allowed on the motorway, It would be far better if a motorway lesson was made compulsory after passing the test but then I also think everyone should have to do a re-test every 10 or 20 years.

Werner Schulz
Werner Schulz

In other countries (Germany) learning to drive on motorways has been standard for decades, of course, only in dual-control cars with experienced (licensed) driving instructors: at least 2 hours on motorways, 2 hours at night, etc. Why would you did in any other way?

Robert Hough
Robert Hough
As long as it is under the supervision of a trained and qualified instructor then I don’t see the problem. Should ensure that the learner knows how to properly join a motorway by matching their speed to the traffic already on it; move over if already on the motorway to allow traffic to join it; know how to deal with HGV’s; and most of all use of indicators and that the outer lane/s are for overtaking only! I am sure that on an empty M25 at 3am on Christmas morning there will be a solitary car doing 50mph in the… Read more »
Brian Rowe
Brian Rowe

Good idea, but they should go on a driving simulator with an Advanced instructor present,for guidance ,also to keep their green just passed plate on for a few months after the pass date. So other drivers could be more considerate towards them. A skid pan awareness course would be a good idea, more experience should have a insurance premiums reduction. Help the future generation of drivers.

anthony hughes
anthony hughes

I think this is a good idea it will mean a lot of drivers will have the experience and will be more confident about using motorways and may encourage them to have professional tuition .

Susan Hadden
Susan Hadden

I agree that it should be compulsory for learner drivers to experience motorway driving, but this should be done AFTER they’ve passed the normal driving test. Their licence should not be issued to them until they’ve had 2 motorway driving lessons in a dual controlled car, which must include 2 entrances onto the motorway and lane changes. There will be no need for a further test but their motorway driving skills must be signed off by an authorised driving instructor. before they are deemed to have passed.

Christopher Rawlins
Christopher Rawlins
I learned to drive in the RAF. We first learned in cars, then took a test, then onto lorries, then took another test. Only then did we take lessons on the motorway, in the lorries, before we finished and went to our respective RAF bases. I have always believed that learners should only drive on normal roads, then take a test, and if the examiner thinks they are good enough, then take lessons on motorway driving before getting a full license. Another way would be to have learners take their normal driving test as they do now, then after about… Read more »
kevin williamson
kevin williamson

I can’t see what all the fuss is about. Learner drivers are allowed and encouraged to get experience on dual carriageways. These have the same speed limit as motorways without the restrictions on vehicles / animals that a motorway has and are therefore have a greater risk.
As for the changes on using a phone this should be equal for all types of offence. There is no difference for using a mobile, sat nav, applying makeup, or using a map. We need to start thinking that a vehicle is a lethal weapon not a right.

Alex Grieve
Alex Grieve
I would feel more comfortable about learner drivers on the motorway (which I think is generally an excellent idea, and overdue) if the general standard of driving on motorways by qualified drivers was better. My particular concerns will come as no surprise to motorway users: traffic moving at excessive speed in lane 3 and much too close together, “lane 2 dwellers” who travel the totality of their journey in lane 2 regardless of other traffic or the lack of it, drivers joining the motorway without paying any attention to the other traffic which has right of way, and drivers on… Read more »
Michael McMahon
Michael McMahon
I am currently learning to fly and as part of my training I must fly solo, no passengers allowed. This gives me essential experience of making decisions for myself but then being able to go back to dual flying so I can share my experiences with an instructor. At the end of it all my skills test is an examiner comparing my training notes to what he sees me do in the cockpit. Maybe there is a need for a closer bond between examination centres and training centres and a need for students to experience driving solo before the driving… Read more »
Malcolm Clarke
Malcolm Clarke
I use motorways quite regularly and see no reason why learner drivers shouldn’t drive on motorways. However, this should only occur under strict and informative supervision by a fully experienced and qualified instructor in a vehicle equipped with dual controls. Also, the instructor must have assessed that the learner has reached a level of competence and confidence required to start driving on motorways. There is always the danger of learners observing and picking up some of the abysmal driving behaviour some of those who are supposed to be experienced motorway drivers. Lastly on this subject, there is only one way… Read more »
Philip Estell
Philip Estell
I don’t understand why it took so long for any government to appreciate the danger of sending newly qualified drivers onto a motorway before allowing them any experience of using one. I was scared witless when I first went onto a motorway but luckily I got through it unscathed. I can’t see why there isn’t a two part test – same as now plus a motorway test after qualification (or at least compulsory training for a set amount of hours on a motorway). I disagree with learners being allowed onto a motorway but do think once a test is passed… Read more »
james pryke
james pryke

If the student has had at least 10 lessons in a car with duel controls and possibly a speed limit and nearside lane only driving unless to overtake. No doubt there would be a lot of problems but in the long term it could be a help.

Michael Wilkinson
Michael Wilkinson

Be introduced to motorway driving the correct way is vital however one needs to prove one’s competence by first passing a driving test.
When that’s done it should be mandatory to have at least one lesson show how to access a motorway, how to use the lanes correctly along with all the other ways of driving normally on other roads use of mirrors indicators et cetera. Having completed a lesson to the satisfaction of the instructor there then should be a certificate issued to say that has been done.

Ann Holding
Ann Holding

I think Learner Drivers should pass their test and then they must have training to drive on Motorways to give them
some experience – with the instructor – on motorways. A final test should then be required for full license.

Taking Learner Drivers on Motorways before they have even passed the basic driving test could be dangerous.

John Airey
John Airey

A poorly thought out proposal. How would it be policed, since they can’t see from the outside that the car has dual controls or not? Plus driving at speed isn’t covered at most test centres. In any event speed limits on dual carriageways are the same for cars and these are much more dangerous (queuing traffic can occur in either lane). A minimum number of training hours would be an improvement. Too many people learn to pass the test and don’t learn to drive.

Don’t even get me started on eye tests, which should be compulsory when you renew your photocard.

john parkinson
john parkinson

Learner drivers should have a spell of professionally supervised motorway driving and should be included as a part of the testing process. The style and complexity of motorway driving is in many respects very different to city and urban driving.

Geoffrey Carter
Geoffrey Carter

Anyone who has ever tried to join a busy motorway behind a car being driven at 30 MPH and then come to a halt because the driver then realizes they have no chance of entering the stream of traffic travelling at 30 plus must have thought an hour of motorway driving should be included in the training.

Robin Lang
Robin Lang

In my opinion this has been a long time coming and it only makes sense that proper practical instruction is given for the main arterial roads, motorways. At the moment we only have the theory taught. The adage ‘tell me and I will forget, show me and i will remember’ springs to mind. Pretest drivers with a qualified instructor are a lot safer than novice drivers on there own.

Karl Chandler
Karl Chandler
As a regular motorway user, it often feels like the apparently qualified drivers don’t know how to use the correct lane or indicate. So I would encourage at least an hour’s worth of instructor-supervised motorway driving before anyone’s let free on their own. Making it compulsory would be more difficult, as it’s not practical in some areas. Is there any excuse to use a mobile while driving? Most mobile phones come with headphones (with mic), you can buy a cheap Bluetooth hands free for £15 – so why do people set up home in the middle lane, phone in hand,… Read more »
james pryke
james pryke

Make you right on all points Karl, there is no excuse to use a phone while driving, and as for the middle lane hog, never a copper around to book the ignorant drivers, as a former HGV driver it drove me up the wall to watch these arrogant things sitting there not bothered whose behind them, and quite often on the phone.

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