Learners could be on the motorway by 2018

New plans announced by the government today aim to improve driver education, including the possibility of learner drivers being allowed to take lessons on the motorway network.

At present, it is illegal for a learner driver to enter a motorway before passing their test, even with a qualified instructor beside them. Currently, most new drivers will first experience a motorway by themselves after passing, unless they pay extra for Pass Plus training, which is an optional course aimed at improving the confidence and safety of newly qualified drivers.

While the new plans could see some learners heading onto the motorways while under instruction, motorway driving is not expected to form a part of their final assessment. Learners won’t be able to have just L-plates and an appropriate adult in the car, they will need to be with an approved driving instructor in a car fitted with dual controls. It will also be up to the driving instructor to assess when a student is “competent enough” to enter the 70mph network of motorways.

Transport Minister Andrew Jones said, “We have some of the safest roads in the world and we want to make them even safer. These changes will equip learners with a wider range of experience and greater skill set which will improve safety levels on our roads.”

According to the government, the proposed change will help learners acquire a broader skill set, better understand joining and leaving the motorway, and the correct use of lanes. The last point will be welcome to all those frustrated by so-called, ‘middle lane hogs’, who sit in the overtaking lane for mile after mile.

The news was welcomed by RAC Foundation Director, Steve Gooding, who said; “The casualty statistics tell us that motorways are our safest roads, but they can feel anything but safe to a newly qualified driver heading down the slip road for the first time to join a fast moving, often heavy, flow of traffic.”

“Many are so intimidated by the motorway environment that they choose instead to use statistically more dangerous roads, so we welcome this move which will help new drivers get the training they need to use motorways safely.”

The safety charity RoSPA also commented; “Anything that will provide young drivers with more realistic training to prepare them for when they become independent drivers is good. At the moment, research finds that young drivers who do not undertake post-test training, which is the majority of them, feel daunted by the prospect of going on to a motorway for the first time.”

While they are currently under consultation, if approved, the changes could come into force as soon as 2018.

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