/ Motoring

Should motorway driving be part of your test?

We’ve had motorways for well over 50 years and a compulsory driving test for nearly 80, yet learner drivers are banned from motorways. Should drivers learn to drive on motorways before passing their tests?

Though motorways are some of the largest and fastest roads in the country, drivers don’t get any practice on them before gaining their full licence. In fact learner drivers are forbidden from even venturing onto motorways while behind the wheel.  However, as soon as they receive their full licence which allows them to drive unaccompanied, drivers can head straight into the overtaking lane.

A rounded driving experience

Driving can be a daunting prospect for many people, especially those with little experience and no experience of driving by themselves. I was lucky enough to be able to drive thousands of miles with my parents before I took my test. I drove at night, during thunderstorms, hail, wind and urban rush hours.

When we discussed this issue on Convo previously, Ellie G told us how she invested in some extra lessons on motorway driving after passing her test:

Once I had passed my test my driving instructor offered me two lessons on motorway driving as he was aware that I would be using motorways fairly frequently. I had two lessons and it was money well spent. This was over twenty years ago and I have always maintained that motorway lessons should be compulsory when the learner is fully competent. Of course it would not stop the dreadful behaviour of some drivers on motorways but perhaps new drivers would be less nervous and prone to errors.

And Driving instructor MissTash007 has an interesting compromise – do you think this could take off:

There should be a compulsory motorway course and test if people wish to drive on the motorway, that way it is an optional course, however if they do not take it they are not legally allowed on the motorway, through licence plate tracking it’s easy to police with so many cameras.

Learners on motorways

Motorways form a significant part of the UK road network, so surely it’s only sensible to prepare drivers for driving on them. Some learners may live in areas where their dual carriageways create similar driving experiences to their local motorways – but not all will have this exposure.

Do you think motorway driving should be part of the test? Should compulsory motorway lessons follow or should they be optional? And how would you like to make sure new drivers are as safe as they can be?



I agree that novice drivers should get experience of driving on motorways, though I am uncertain about whether this should be the final part of preparing for a test or done after passing the test.

I also very much agree with Chris about the importance of gaining experience, as a learner, of driving at night, in poor weather conditions, and in rush hour traffic.


“in poor weather conditions” My daughter took her test yesterday, 1st time she’s driven in pouring rain and with very wet roads. She failed as she didn’t reduce speed soon enough on about the 2nd /3rd corner of the test. Oh well, she’s learn for the next one.

She’s been using a well known A road between the town she lives in and the one I live in ( that’s where the nearest test centre is). It’s 3 lane and looks and acts just like a motorway.

Last year when one of her friends drove her home from uni they used that road, and she thought it was a motorway, as bless her heart, in rural Wales apparently they don’t have normal roads that big.


In rural Essex we are 50 miles from the nearest motorway. I am sure there are other areas of the UK that are even further away. It is impractical to learn on a motorway in this situation.

Angie says:
23 October 2015

Yes, agreed. Another example is North Norfolk. It would be one of the furthest points from a motorway, save say Penzance, by about 5 miles. Penalising rural young people. Will there be a financial support scheme if this process became compulsory, I wonder?


What I think would work for me is keep the driving test the same as is now, but when the licence is issued, only have it valid for 3-6 months and with the restriction of no motorway driving unless under instruction and with L plates. During that 3-6 months you should be required to pass another test to enable you to drive on motorways. If after that time you have passed a test you get issued with the normal licence. If you haven’t ( presumably cos you have no intention of using a motorway) you get issued a full licence with the restriction of no motorway driving. Fines for caught driving on a motorway without a valid licence £1000. If needs to be more than the cost of lessons + test.

For overseas drivers using overseas driving licences, they’d need to apply for a motorway extension costing £100. Valid only for 3-6 months, during which time they can take driving lessons and a test to use the motorways.


I agree that for many it will be impractical to have a driving test to include a motorway, because of the distance to reach one. In many ways, I think driving on a dual carriageway is worse than a motorway. Same speed, more hazards. They also want experience of night driving, driving in rain, mist and snow or ice to become competent – not something the test can cover, only experience. When my kids passed their tests they took more lessons to get a Pass Plus, which did include motorway and dual carriageway, rain, and driving in the dark if it was winter. It did their driving good and also reduced their insurance premiums.

Malcolm says:
6 February 2014

I have to drive 30 miles to the nearest motorway. Maybe this could be the lever to get a South Coast motorway through Dorset and Devon!

However, I don’t see the fuss about motorways.

I have driven thousands of motorway miles, I’m sure a great many others have. What makes it so different? 50 years ago it was a big deal. Now it isn’t. Then, it stretched the abilities of the average car. Now it doesn’t, even the most modest car is perfectly at home on a motorway.

It’s not really any different from any other dual carriageway, as others have pointed out. The main hazard on a motorway is boredom.

As for all these tests and draconian restrictions – why?


Have you not noticed how many people live in the middle lane? On the M25 you “could” safely undertake people camped in the 3rd /4th lane using the 1st lane. And its very common.

Even though they’ve only within the last 12 months introduced a law to try and prevent lane hogging, I’ve not noticed it a) being enforced or b) making the slightest bit of difference to peoples inability to use motorways safely.

I feel the best way forward is to educate people, and what better way than to get them when they first start out.


Given that some learner drivers are not confident on normal roads and hold up traffic, it would be dangerous to have drivers of that calibre on the motorway. There is the problem, already highlighted, of drivers who live a considerable distance from a motorway. Probably a two tier driving test may be needed with drivers having to display a “P” during this interim period or some similar marking but there is still the problem of the drivers who live a distance from a motorway but,if we are to have a test for motorway driving, they should not be exempt as they may drive on a motorway at some time or other.

It should be borne in mind that passing a driving test in one country gives a driver the right to drive in most other countries without further testing so should we be testing for motorway conditions?