New plans for learner driver motorway lessons

Learner drivers will be allowed on motorways for the first time if a new government plan to improve road safety is given the green light.

Under current rules, first-time motorists are only able to drive on motorways after they pass their test, having had no training on the 70mph roads.

Transport Minister Andrew Jones has announced the plan, which would allow approved instructors to take “competent” trainees on motorways in dual-controlled cars.

Road safety campaigners are backing the new proposal.

Neil Greig, policy director at IAM RoadSmart called it a “sensible and measured solution”, adding: “It makes no sense that new drivers learn by trial and, often fatal, error how to use our fastest and most important roads.”

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RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: “We welcome the proposal to allow competent learner drivers to practise driving on motorways under the supervision of their instructor in a dual-controlled car.

“While new drivers understand the theory of how to drive on a motorway they currently cannot gain any practical experience until they pass their test. Only then are they legally allowed to drive on our fastest roads which can be an extremely daunting prospect the first time they do it on their own.

“RAC research shows that a quarter of motorists feel uncomfortable driving on the motorway but hopefully by allowing learners to gain valuable experience prior to getting their full licences this will change and the overall level of confidence about driving on the motorway will improve.

“Despite carrying the most traffic motorways are statistically our safest roads, accounting for 6% of fatalities in 2015 whereas country roads are responsible for 51% of lives lost. Seeking to avoid driving on the motorway because of concerns about safety is therefore not necessarily the best choice.”

New plans also include motorcyclists having to take a theory test as part of the compulsory basic training (CBT) course, which allows bikes, as well as mopeds, to be ridden unaccompanied.

CBT certificates will also be revoked if the motorist gets six penalty points, should the proposal be approved.

Reports had claimed the Government was considering making learner drivers undertake a mandatory 120 hours of training before taking their tests, but the Department for Transport said there are “no current plans” for such a measure.

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A spokeswoman said: “We have commissioned a £2 million research programme that will look at ways we can reduce the number of accidents involving new and inexperienced drivers, and this will look at a range of measures.”

The road safety shake up comes after the government also announced there will be harsher punishments for drivers caught using their phone.

The crackdown on motorists will introduce tougher fines and points penalties. Points will go from three to six, and fines from £100 to £200.

The RAC Report on Motoring 2016 identified that the problem is of “epidemic proportions” as almost half (48%) of motorists admitted to using a handheld phone at the wheel to talk, text or use other apps in the last year.

Copyright Press Association 2016. Motoring News articles do not reflect the RAC's views unless clearly stated.