We've asked driving instructors Louise and Blaine, what they think about the change in motorway driving law and how they're preparing lessons for their students!
From the 4th June 2018, the law is changing to allow learner drivers to gain motorway experience before they pass their driving test. Since the introduction of the Theory Test in 1996, learner drivers have been encouraged to swat up on their knowledge and understanding of motorway rules and safety. However, until now, the first time a novice driver actually gets to put this into practice is after they have become a full licence holder. For the vast majority, this means their first motorway experience is very much on their own and without the practical back up tuition from a trained driving instructor.
As a driving instructor, I'm delighted that the change in law will allow me to add motorway driving to my syllabus from the 4th June. For my pupil's motorway driving will be a natural progression from dual carriageway work. Our focus will be on keeping the lesson real and looking at how to deal with different scenarios that may only be experienced on a motorway, for example, multiple lane choices, overtaking larger, slower vehicles and reading road signs unique to the motorway network
My first pupil will be driving on our local stretch of motorway on Monday 4th June. She is an experienced pupil and is ready for this next stage of her learning. We expect to be joined by a number of other instructors with competent pupils so we can mark this day in history!
Should I take a motorway lesson?
Your driving instructor will make sure you have gained the road experience you need, including the ability to control a car at higher speeds, awareness and planning skills and general hazard perception before taking you on a motorway. You may have had the opportunity to practise these skills on a dual carriageway in preparation for your motorway drive and be ready for this next step in your learning. Your instructor will help you know when you are ready. The instructor’s car will continue to show L plates although your instructor may decide to remove the top box from the roof of the car if they normally use one.
Motorway lessons won't be compulsory and motorway driving won't be tested on the driving test! Despite there being 2,300 miles of the motorway network, there are many hundreds of miles of the country where many thousands of learner drivers and driving instructors, will not have easy access to a motorway. For this reason, pre-test motorway experience will remain voluntary. Whilst we recommend motorway driving lessons, it is entirely up to the individual. Make sure you feel ready within yourself!
As a provisional licence holder you will ONLY be allowed to drive on a motorway with a fully qualified driving instructor in a dual controlled car... so no practising with mum or dad I'm afraid!
What will a motorway lesson involve?
Your instructor will make the lesson relevant to your needs, talking with you about route planning and journey preparation, possibly covering your most likely first motorway drive. For example, the drive to university or a day out with friends to an amusement park or festival. This will help you plan for factors that may influence your journeys, such as time of day or passengers.
How do you feel?
A motorway driving lesson is a chance to discuss how you may drive differently depending on the weather or visibility. The topic of tiredness and recognising when your concentration is not 100% and how to then remain safe is also an important one to have, including how to plan for regular breaks and what to do if you begin to feel tired.
Your skill level
It's likely that even with previous dual carriageway experience until you drive on a motorway you may not have had the option of a lane 3 or even a lane 4! Your instructor will be guiding you in the best way to utilise the extra lanes so you can make safe progress when interacting with other motorway users, particularly when two motorways merge or separate.
Breaking it down
It's an opportunity to discuss what to do in an emergency or a break down on a motorway, as this can sometimes be a scary thing to experience, particularly if you are unsure what to do.
Sharing is caring
If you live some distance away from a motorway your instructor may offer to take two or more of you on a road trip to share the driving time yet still give you and your fellow learners some quality motorway experience. Take the opportunity if you can!
As instructors, we are looking forward to supporting learner drivers in gaining some useful pretest motorway driving and preparing you for your first independent motorway journey and contributing to road safety in the hope that motorways continue to be a safe and incident-free experience for many years to come.