Learner drivers will be able to have lessons on motorways in a bid to improve road safety, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announced today.
The law change will be active from 2018, when learners will be allowed on motorways with an approved driving instructor in a dual control car. This will provide a broader range of real life experiences and better prepare learners for independent driving when they pass their test.
Currently learners cannot drive on a motorway until after they have passed their test. This means the first experience of motorway driving for many is as a new driver without the guidance of a driving instructor or the safety of a dual control car.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “The UK has some of safest roads in the world and we want to make them even safer.
“Younger drivers are up to seven times more likely to be killed or seriously injured compared with drivers over twenty-five 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.”
Improving road safety is a priority for this government, and allowing learners on motorways with an approved instructor will better protect young drivers and other motorway users. It will ensure the current generation of adults about to start their driving career have the best possible introduction to what should be a lifetime of safe driving.
RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said: “We welcome the news that learner drivers will be allowed to take lessons on the motorway under the supervision of an approved driving instructor in a dual-controlled car, something that motorists we surveyed were overwhelmingly supportive of.
“While motorways are statistically our safest roads, it can be daunting using them for the first time after passing the driving test. Giving learners the option to gain valuable experience on our fastest and busiest roads should further improve safety and enhance the confidence of new drivers.”
The Department for Transport consulted on these changes earlier this year, receiving wide support from both learner drivers and approved driving instructors. These changes apply to England, Wales and Scotland only.
DVSA Chief Driving Examiner, Lesley Young, said: “DVSA’s priority is to help you through a lifetime of safe driving.
“Our roads are among the safest in the world, but we’re determined to do more to improve safety for all road users.
“We want to modernise driver training so that novice drivers gain the skills and experience they need to help them and everyone else to stay safe on our motorways.”
Head of learning and development for British School of Motoring, Jasmine Halstead, said: “Per mile travelled motorways are our safest roads.
“If learners aren’t allowed to practise on motorways under supervision then some will avoid motorways, and others will use motorways incorrectly when they have passed their test.
“Hence it is great news for road safety that learners will be able to drive on motorways under supervision.”
Carly Brookfield DIA Chief Executive commented: "We're delighted to finally see Learners on motorways become a reality after many years of discussion and lobbying.
"All the research points to the fact that increased practice and exposure to different types of road and driving situation makes novice drivers safer.
"The inability for Learners to access the motorway network in the training period has hampered their exposure to motorway driving to build that vital experience - yet up until now we've allowed them to go straight on once they're licenced.
"Approved Driving Instructors will now be able to deliver that vital training pre-test and the public can rest assured that this training will take place under the supervision of a qualified trainer and in dual control car."
DIA is currently working with Highways England (the agency responsible for managing the high speed road network) to develop a series of free to use learning resources for both ADIs and Learners, to help prepare them for increased training in this context.
A range of training resources will focus on developing the skills and knowledge of novice drivers to better enable them to use the high speed road network more safely. Specific CPD workshops will also shortly be made available to ADIs who want to develop their learning delivery in this area-covering motorways, high speed urban and rural roads.
In depth research has been undertaken recently by DIA and Highways England (delivered by Road Safety research specialists Brainbox) to understand the learning and training needs for both pupils and trainers in this specific area of driver education and has revealed some interesting gaps in awareness, knowledge and levels of confidence in driving on high speed roads.
DIA, working alongside Highways England, DVSA and DfT, has also been selected to deliver a large scale communications programme to Learners, parents and trainers about the change to allow Learners on motorways, as well as communicating to drivers in general the real risks and challenges of driving on the highways network - and how to better mitigate those risks.
Tackling Road Safety incidents on the network costs over £700 million each year, with many of these driver related issues being avoidable. Watch this space for more details of this important project.