Road safety stakeholders have almost unanimously welcomed the introduction of motorway lessons for those learning to drive.
Permitted from today (4 June), any motorway lessons learner drivers take will be voluntary and must be with an approved driving instructor in a car with dual-controls displaying L plates.
However, motorway driving is not being added to the driving test as part of this change, and the change in law does not apply to learner motorcyclists.
The DVSA says driving instructors will only take learner drivers on the motorway when they have ‘the right skills and experience to drive in a high-speed environment’.
Road Safety GB says the move will help learner drivers become better prepared to drive on motorways.
Steve Horton, director of communications at Road Safety GB said: “Many newly qualified drivers fear using our motorways and yet they are statistically the safest roads we have.
“Giving learners the opportunity to experience motorway driving under the controlled conditions of an approved driving instructor in a dual controlled car will help many to become more familiar with this type of driving and better prepare them for future safer road use.
“With this guidance leading to developing experience, new drivers will be far better prepared to drive on motorways rather than being left to work it out for themselves in real word situations.”
IAM RoadSmart says the new law could save ‘countless lives’ as well as reduce congestion-causing incidents.
Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said: “IAM RoadSmart strongly welcomes this common-sense change to the law on motorway driving.
“It has never made sense to us that new drivers on our most important roads learned how to use them by trial and potentially fatal error.
“The government’s insistence on the use of approved instructors and dual-controlled cars is a welcome safeguard that will ensure consistent levels of training and a proper phased introduction to motorway driving skills.
“Delays and injuries caused by driver error blight our motorways and with new systems such as smart motorways being widely introduced, it is vital that the level of knowledge and skill among motorway users is improved to keep our key economic routes flowing.”
The AA says has also welcomed the move, adding that young drivers are ‘drastically’ over-represented in crashes.
Edmund King, director of the AA Charitable Trust, said: “This change, which will help broaden the opportunities they have while learning, is very positive.
!It is somewhat perverse that five minutes after passing the driving test a new driver could venture alone on to a motorway without having had any motorway tuition.”
The RAC Foundation has described the new law as a logical step.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Gone are the days when learners had to steer clear of our busiest and fastest roads. Now, under the eagle eye of their instructors, they will be actively welcomed.
“If learning to drive is preparing for whatever the road network can throw at you then this change is a logical step and will help keep our motorways – the first of which was opened in 1958 – the safest routes we have.”
Brake, however, is calling on the Government to go even further and introduce a graduated driver licensing system.
Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake, said: “While today’s move is a small step in the right direction, a total overhaul in the way in which we learn to drive is urgently needed.
“Improvements in UK road safety have stagnated in recent years and a step-change is required. GDL is proven to deliver for some of our most vulnerable road users and must be implemented as a matter of priority.”