The government has issued proposals, for industry consultation, concerning learner drivers gaining experience on motorways prior to taking their practical driving test.
At Learn Driving UK, we have been strong advocates of the Pass Plus Scheme for newly-qualified drivers which includes a practical motorway module. Unfortunately, Pass Plus has not had strong industry backing and it has lacked promotion, meaning there has been a low take-up rate by new drivers. So, unless new drivers felt the need for extra tuition on motorways (for instance, driving for work) the cost and time imperatives of this training meant that many new drivers simply didn’t bother.
There is an opportunity now to capitalise on the enthusiasm of learner drivers by offering motorway training prior to taking the practical driving test. The argument goes that they are more likely to do it if it was built into a course of driving lessons.
The benefits of motorway driving experience are many:
- Develop car control skills at higher speeds
- Practice lane changing and overtaking procedures
- Enhance all round observation especially the use of mirrors
- Build confidence in fast-moving traffic
- Reduce the risk of incidents, due to lack of experience, post driving test
The training prior to the practical driving test should be with qualified driving instructors. They have the experience and training to pass on the necessary skills whilst keeping risk to students and other road users to a minimum. They also have dual controls and are trained to intervene physically (steering, cancel incorrect signals etc.) if or when necessary.
Many driving school cars are clearly marked with driving school promotional stickers so spotting the learner driver under instruction on a motorway shouldn’t be too difficult. L plates must be fitted to the bodywork though, in our opinion, as it would be against the law not to fit them. Roof boxes should be removed as they could fall off at higher speeds and in windy conditions.
There may be some resistance to this proposal from regular motorway users fearing a glut of learners holding up the roads, slowing everyone down and generally making motorways more dangerous. Let’s analyse this argument for a second. Motorways are the safest road network in one of the top three safest countries in the world so learner drivers, who are close to a practical driving test and under expert supervision, shouldn’t be adding significantly to the risk. Secondly, new drivers aged 17-24 are many more times likely to be involved in a traffic accident, so training on motorways for nearly all of them (95% of L drivers have some professional tuition) should help lower this damning statistic.
So, come on Department of Transport, allow L drivers who are under supervision and close to taking a driving test on to motorways. They will gain massively from the experience and regular motorway users should welcome the proposal. New drivers, once qualified, will be more capable and confident on their first motorway journeys making the network safer for us all.