At the end of December 2016, the government released a proposal to allow learner drivers to start taking lessons on the motorway. By having a qualified instructor next to them for support and guidance, this could prove to be a much safer way for learner drivers to gain the valuable experience they need to be able to drive confidently on the motorway once they’ve passed.
According to Gov.co.uk, young people are currently up to 7 times more likely to crash within their first year of passing their test. It is believed many young drivers are so anxious about using the motorway that they take to country and rural roads instead, which is where a many accidents occur.
You may think motorways are where crashes and accidents would happen the most. Actually, the fact that drivers are going at a constant speed on straight roads and there’s no hair pin bends or blind corners means they‘re a lot safer than some country routes.
Driving on the motorway does however require a different style of driving compared to normal public roads. First you will have to merge from the slip road onto the motorway – which is probably the scariest part for most new drivers (not to mention some experienced drivers too on a busy day!) You’ll need an increased sense of awareness so will need to regularly check your mirrors for vehicles to the side and behind you, as well as keep an eye the cars in front. It also means you need to be alert for sudden changes to speed limits, closures, and potential diversions.
Should learner drivers be allowed on the motorway?
So the question is, do learner drivers pose more of a risk to other motorists? After all, they are required to drive on dual carriageways which require similar skills and awareness!
We asked some qualified driving instructors their thoughts on the topic!
Tim Elmer from Elmer Driving School said – “I think it's a great idea, as long as it's only with ADIs and dual controls. I live just off the M1 so it would be easy for me... in fact it would mean I wouldn't be as bothered when pupils take the wrong exit off certain roundabouts!”
Robert Anscome from Robs School of Motoring says – “I personally think that a learner with a professional driving instructor with dual controls would be a lot safer than a newly qualified driver on their own and been on the motorway for the first time. Surely this is a no brainier and I can't believe it's taken this long to get the laws changed.”
We also asked 2 young drivers who passed their test within the last couple of years, their thoughts on the new proposed changes and whether they felt it would have benefited them back when they were learning to drive.
Jim Knight – “Personally I think that it is a fairly good idea, even though it will have its pros and cons. Passing my test nearly 2 years ago now, to this date I have still never driven on a motorway and the thought of it is quite daunting. I would feel a lot more at ease becoming a new driver if I’d have had the experience driving on the motorway whilst still a learner.”
Will Tyson – “I think getting learner drivers on motorways is brilliant. After passing your test there is always the daunting prospect of hitting the motorway for the first time, possibly on your own, and you have no idea what it will be like. It can only be a good thing to have young driver's experience the feeling of driving a car at higher speeds with the guidance of an instructor before heading out on the road on their own. They aren't even that scary anyway!”
There’s no real reason why it shouldn’t be considered
So it appears some driving instructors and young people are all for the potential changes! In theory, if an instructor is by a learner driver’s side, and able to control the average speed and braking of the car using dual controls, it’s probably much safer than attempting it on your own when you’ve passed anyway.
The long term benefits are clear, and it would help young drivers like Jim save a few miles “taking the long route” to avoid the motorway as they’ll gain more confidence by enabling them to practise safely knowing they have the back-up of their driving instructor.
If the changes do not go ahead and you are someone who worries about the prospect of the motorway – there’s always the Pass Plus course you can take after you’ve passed which gives you this experience. If you don’t fancy taking this, we would advise going out with mum or dad for your first trip, or with someone experienced. It’s got to be better than doing it on your own after all!