Road Safety GB, the RAC, IAM RoadSmart and the BSM have all welcomed confirmation of the widely expected news that learner drivers are to be allowed to have lessons on motorways – while the move received a much cooler reception from the road safety charity Brake.
The law change, announced by transport minister Chris Grayling over the weekend, will come into effect in 2018, with learners allowed on motorways when accompanied by an approved driving instructor in a dual control car.
The Government hopes that the move will provide a broader range of ‘real life experiences’ and better prepare learners for independent driving when they pass their test.
The DfT consulted on the changes earlier this year, receiving ‘wide support from both learner drivers and approved driving instructors’.
Road Safety GB has welcomed what it describes as a ‘very positive move for road safety’.
Iain Temperton, Road Safety GB director of communications, said: "We have supported this proposal through the consultation process and feel that the implementation will be a very positive move for road safety.
"Learning to drive is a life skill and new drivers need to be given the confidence to tackle part of the network that can seem very intimidating.
"The professionalism of the ADI, supported by DVSA will ensure that this takes place at the right time in the learner’s progress. Along with other proposed and recent changes to the driving test we feel that new drivers are being given the best possible chance to engage with other road users safely and effectively."
The RAC says the law change will help enhance the confidence of new drivers.
Pete Williams, RAC road safety spokesman, said: “We welcome the news that learner drivers will be allowed to take lessons on the motorway… something that motorists we surveyed were overwhelmingly supportive of.
“While motorways are statistically our safest roads, it can be daunting using them for the first time after passing the driving test. Giving learners the option to gain valuable experience on our fastest and busiest roads should further improve safety and enhance the confidence of new drivers.”
IAM RoadSmart also welcomed the move, describing it as ‘long overdue’.
Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said: “It makes no sense that new drivers learn by trial and, sometimes fatal, error how to use our fastest and most important roads.
“Allowing learners on motorways with an approved instructor is a sensible and measured solution that should deliver confident new drivers who are much better able to cope with complex smart motorways.”
The British School of Motoring (BSM) described the announcement as ‘great news for road safety’.
Jasmine Halstead, head of learning and development at BSM, said: “If learners aren’t allowed to practise on motorways under supervision then some will avoid motorways, and others will use motorways incorrectly when they have passed their test.
“Hence it is great news for road safety that learners will be able to drive on motorways under supervision.”
However, Brake says there should be a requirement for all newly-qualified drivers to receive mandatory motorway lessons once they’ve passed their test, as part of a graduated driver licensing system.
Jason Wakeford, Brake’s director of campaigns, said: "Young drivers are involved in a high proportion of crashes that kill and seriously injure because of inexperience and the tendency of many to take risks. Improved training before and after getting a licence is essential to improving road safety.
"Rather than allowing learner drivers on the motorway, there should instead be a requirement for all newly-qualified drivers to receive mandatory lessons, including on the motorway, once they’ve passed their test.
“There needs to be much wider reform to the learning to drive system, including a minimum learning period and restrictions for newly-qualified drivers, such as a late night curfew. This graduated driver licensing approach has helped dramatically reduce road casualties in countries including Australia, and could save lives here in the UK too.”