Learner Drivers on the Motorway

It is subject that has been discussed for years. It was officially announced, in parliament, last year, that the legislation was changing, and now, we finally have a confirmed date. From the 4th June 2018, learner drivers will be allowed on the motorway.

This is an announcement that his been met with some very strong views, from many different camps. Weelz Driving School are firmly behind the announcement though, and hopefully, this blog post can highlight why, as well as dispelling some of the myths and fears that people may have.

Surely its dangerous to have learners on a busy motorway?

This is the most common opposition that we hear, and, on the face of it, it’s a very fair opposition. The first thing to look at here is the new legislation itself. It is important to note that not all learner drivers will be allowed on the motorway. Only learner drivers, accompanied by a fully qualified driving instructor, in a dual controlled car, will be allowed on the motorway. This means that learners will NOT be allowed on when doing private practice with family members or friends, will NOT be allowed on in their own car, and will NOT be allowed on if their instructor is a trainee. The wording of the legislation is really important, as it puts the onus on the driving instructor to decide when a pupil is safe and ready to be on the motorway. As trained professionals, we feel, that we are in a great position to make this judgement. We certainly won’t be taking inexperienced learners on the motorway, as that would, clearly, be very dangerous. No instructor would put their pupil, the public, or indeed, themselves in that sort of danger. However, as a pupil is approaching test standard, it will be a fantastic experience to be able to give to a learner driver.

Why change the law at all? Pass Plus and motorway lessons exist already!

Again, this is a fair argument. The takeup of this additional training is miniscule though. Far less than 10% of learner drivers currently go on to complete any formal motorway training, despite a lot of people talking about it before they pass. The issue is that, because they are not compulsory, and they are expensive, once people have that driving licence, it feels like unnecessary expense. The law, as it currently stands, means that it is illegal for a learner driver to enter a motorway at all, but, they can pass a driving test in the morning, sort out insurance, and then legally drive the length of the country, unaccompanied, in the afternoon, without ever being given any formal training. I’m sure, most people would agree that this is not a safe situation, and is one that needs addressing.

Why not just make, post test, motorway lessons compulsory?

It’s another great question, and on the face of it, it’s the perfect solution. The problem is, to make something compulsory, it has to be available to everyone, and there are many areas of the UK that aren’t anywhere near a motorway. Some areas, (for example, the highlands of Scotland), are well over an hour away from the nearest motorway, so it would not be viable to enforce motorway training in these areas. For this reason, too, motorway driving will not be added to the driving test. The test is designed to be around about 40 minutes long, so anything added to the test needs to be achievable, in that timescale, in all areas of the country.

Will all Weelz learners have to drive on the motorway?

As I’ve already said, motorway driving will not be compulsory, and will not be on the test. Having said that, it is something which we will be embracing, and we will encourage the majority of learners to experience some motorway driving before their driving test. Even if that is just to the end of the M55, in Preston, and back. Pupils will not be pressured to do it though, so there will certainly not be any pressure applied by any instructors. We just think it will be a really valuable experience, that will be available to anyone that wants it, and is at an appropriate standard.

How will we decide when a learner is ready to be taken on the motorway?

In a nutshell, we will just use our professional judgement. The same way when we decide if a pupil is ready to deal with a roundabout, to tackle a national speed limit road, or to take on country lanes. These are decisions that we make every day, and important decisions to help with the development of all learner drivers. The decision to accompany a learner driver onto a motorway isn’t one that any instructor will take lightly, and will only be done towards the end of a pupil’s training. In the vast majority of cases though, we feel that, a pupil who is ready to take a driving test, will be ready to safety, with assistance, if necessary, tackle a motorway. After all, if they pass their test the would be allowed to do it, unaccompanied, a matter of weeks later anyway!