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Learner drivers to be allowed on motorways from 2018

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Proposed changes will give learner drivers access to motorways.

Learner driver with instructor

After a brief consultation in early 2017, plans are now underway to allow learner drivers onto our motorways.

The changes will give learners the option of having lessons on the motorway, should their instructor deem them competent enough to do so.

Learners will need to be accompanied by an approved driving instructor, and drive a car that's fitted with dual controls.

Although no definite date is set, the change will be made sometime in 2018. There are no plans to incorporate motorway driving into the new driving test.

Motorway lessons develop "a practical understanding"

Transport minister Chris Grayling said about the new plans:

“Younger drivers are up to seven times more likely to be killed or seriously injured compared with drivers over 25, and lack of experience is an important factor.

“Allowing learners to drive on motorways in a supportive environment will help them develop a practical understanding of how to use motorways safely before driving independently.”

But how do learner drivers feel about his?

Some learner drivers welcome this opportunity. Beth Holloway from St Albans said:

“I think it's a good idea for learner drivers to be allowed to go the motorway accompanied by their driving instructor.

“I remember the first time I went on a dual carriageway I found it really scary. Everyone was going so fast and it was like nothing I'd experienced before.

"I'm confident on dual carriageways now. Although I know that motorways are similar, I'm aware that there are differences. It would be good to learn about them with someone experienced.”

Joanne Mallon, author of How to Overcome Fear of Driving, also supports the plans:

“When I was re-learning to drive, I got the instructor to take me out on the motorway. I would never have been able to cope otherwise.

“I discovered that fear of motorways was one of the most common difficulties people experienced. They would often plan journeys to avoid them, even choosing rural roads that are statistically more dangerous.

“I believe that having the opportunity to practice on motorways before taking the test will help build confidence for many drivers.”

Busy motorway

Rising concerns

Driver trainer Kathy Higgins of Insight2Drive has mixed feelings about the proposed changes.

“On one hand, it's a good idea in the sense that it will give learners experience on the motorway and allow driving instructors impart better skills.” she says.

“Hopefully instructors won't take them onto a motorway until the learner is confident with speed and changing lanes.”

However, Kathy was recently driving on a 50mph dual carriageway and saw a learner driver doing 20mph.

“It was clear that they weren't ready for that environment. I'm concerned that some inexperienced instructors might take students who aren't fully prepared onto the motorway.”

Kathy feels that in making this change the government isn't focusing on the most important issues. She says, “Department of Transport figures show that only 6% of road deaths are on motorways and that they’re our safest roads.

“Rather than changing learner driver training, the government should put more emphasis on improving driver behaviour in the long term. For example, encouraging motorists to take a refresher test at five or 10-year intervals.”

What’s the plan?

The change will not be a required part of driver training. However, most driving experts strongly suggest that new drivers don't venture onto the motorway for the first time without a qualified instructor.

It's advised that they take additional post-test training to cover motorways and other aspects of driving, such as night driving. The government-approved Pass Plus course is one way in which drivers can cover these areas.

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