Learner drivers in England, Wales and Scotland will be allowed to have lessons on the motorway by next year, the government has announced.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said lessons would be in a dual-control car with an approved driving instructor.
Currently only those who have passed their test can drive on a motorway, but in 2015 the DfT said it would consider a law change.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the lessons would make UK roads safer.
He said: “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.”
Road deaths link
Mr Grayling said young drivers were more likely to be killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads – and a lack of experience was an “important factor”.
“The UK has some of safest roads in the world and we want to make them even safer,” he said.
There were 1,810 deaths on UK roads in the year to September 2016, in line with the previous year, according to provisional estimates published by the DfT.
In 2015, a DfT policy document suggested motorway lessons alongside a number of proposals, including increasing penalty points for using a mobile phone while driving and a £2m research programme to improve safety for inexperienced drivers.
Top tips for learners
Instructor Sharon Starr, whose driving school is based in Stoke Newington, north London, is in favour of the plans – but cautioned many instructors do not offer motorway lessons as they perceive them to be more dangerous. She has this advice for first-time motorway drivers:
- Keep calm. The most important thing is to keep calm, and remember your instructor is there to help if you have a problem. Motorways are similar to dual carriageways – which learners have already driven on – so it’s the same but a bit faster.
- Plan ahead. Sometimes you need to ease off the accelerator to create the gap ahead. You need to build up speed quite quickly when you are joining the motorway.
- Don’t hesitate. If you hesitate while joining the motorway or changing lanes you can put yourself or other drivers in danger. Once you’ve begun to move, they are expecting you to go.
- Watch speed limits. Lots of people don’t realise the speed limit isn’t only 70mph. There are average speed cameras where the speed limit is 50mph so you need to be careful.
The RAC’s safety spokesman Pete Williams backed the changes, which ministers have been consulting on this year.
He said: “While motorways are statistically our safest roads, it can be daunting using them for the first time after passing the driving test.”
Mr Williams said drivers the RAC had surveyed were “overwhelmingly supportive” of motorway lessons.
AA president Edmund King said a lack of motorway experience was the “Achilles heel” of learner drivers.
“Almost half of motorists know friends or family who avoid driving on motorways.”
Under changes to the practical driving test effective from 4 December, learner drivers will be tested on their ability to use a sat nav.
Drivers will also be expected to answer vehicle safety questions while on the move and complete 20 minutes of independent driving rather than 10.
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