Learners get the go ahead to drive on motorways

After some anticipation, it was announced on 1st March that learners get the green light to drive on motorways as from Monday 4th June 2018.

This decision followed the consultation entitled “Allowing learner drivers to take lessons on motorways,” which was issued by the Department for Transport (DfT) On 30th December 2016. Responses were invited from driving instructors, members of the public and organisations interested in road safety.

The consultation set out proposals to allow learner drivers to drive on motorways as part of their pre-test instruction, subject to certain safeguards, i.e. provided they are accompanied by an approved driving instructor and driving a dual-controlled car. The proposals apply only to England, Scotland and Wales.

When the consultation closed in February 2017 it showed that 80 per cent of the responses were in favour of learners having driving tuition on motorways under the supervision of a fully qualified driving instructor in a car fitted with dual controls and visible ‘L’ plates displayed to both the front and rear of the tuition car.

I agree with motoring journalist Quentin Willson, who as spokesperson for Approved Driving Instructor Joint National Council (ADINJC), wrote “But I agree that not having proper motorway lessons is a glaring omission in driving tuition that we need to put right. You can see that there are several generations of drivers already on our motorways who don’t signal early enough, get too close to the car in front, don’t understand lane discipline and only survive because of the awareness of more skilled and experienced drivers.”

Frequently, when travelling on motorways, I witness car drivers changing lanes to pass large lorries and then sit in their diagonal (blind spot). They appear totally oblivious to the fact that the lorry driver could change lanes at any time and could be unaware of the car.

Education and gaining experience pre- test, in my opinion, is essential to ensure the required skills and knowledge are developed so pupils are fully prepared for motorway driving, therefore, enabling them to have the confidence and ability to demonstrate safe driving post-test.

Only 4% of crashes happen on motorways and account for just 5% of all fatalities, making them our safest roads. However, due to the speed involved, when a crash happens they tend to be more serious.

This legislation will see one of the biggest changes in driver training, coming nearly 60 years since the opening of Britain’s first stretch of motorway. Preston by-pass was opened in 1958 and is now part of the M6.

November 1959 saw the opening of the M1 as the first full stretch of motorway and was anticipated to cope with around 14,000 vehicles per day. Nearly sixty years on, the volume of traffic has increased tenfold.

As a driver trainer I welcome the decision to allow learners on motorways and look forward to taking my first provisional licence holder for their motorway lesson. However, pupils will have to be ‘test ready’ with skills and knowledge gained in all other aspects of driving. This will also include firstly having developed confidence and competence dual carriageways.

It is hoped this new legislation will see our motorways remaining the safest roads to travel on for many years to come.

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