/ Motoring

Should learners be allowed on the motorway?

L-plate on back of car

From next year learner drivers will be allowed to head up and down the motorway with a qualified instructor. Will this slow-up – and potentially endanger – other drivers, or is it key to helping learners gain experience?

Letting learner drivers loose on our motorways may seem like a recipe for disaster – or at least a multi-vehicle pile-up. However, that’s just what the Department for Transport has announced it is planning to do.

MP Mike Penning revealed plans to enable learner drivers to get some motorway driving training from 2012, provided they are accompanied by a qualified instructor.

This means they can’t speed around the country supervised only by a friend or relative, but that they can get experience of driving at high speeds in a safe way with an instructor. And they’ll hopefully learn vital skills that will keep them safer once they’ve passed their test.

The pros and cons of motorway lessons

I don’t relish the notion of having to dodge slow-moving L-drivers the next time I venture onto the M25. And what if they decide to hog the fast lane? There certainly could be a negative impact on congestion on our already overcrowded motorways.

However, anything that cuts the death and injury toll among young drivers has to be a good thing. In fact, I wonder if the Department for Transport has gone far enough – surely night-time driving should be added to the agenda for learners too.

And perhaps both of these types of driving should be made compulsory for everyone, except those living in remote parts of the country without a motorway network nearby. After all, one of the big plusses of passing the L-test – for parents and young drivers – is the ability it gives them to get home safely late at night.

Do you think our driving test is thorough enough, and if not how would you improve it?

Diana Donald says:
19 December 2011

People should be made to learn on motorways, but not until they are proficient. It should also be part of the test.


The driving test has never been enough – it should be a two phased test – with a retest say every five years. Hopefully this would remove the over 1 million uninsured drivers from the road – and pick up on the idiots that could drive properly once but no longer.


I would like to see teaching of tolerance and courtesy included in driver training . All drivers make mistakes and some make a lot of them. One of the reasons that older drivers are often safer than young drivers is that they make allowances for the deficiencies of others and are ready at all times to take action to avoid an accident. A little courtesy can make using the roads a safer and more pleasant experience.

Older people often regard young drivers as idiots, but maybe they cannot remember their own deficiencies. 🙂


Ideally, driving lessons and the test should cover situations that could prove difficult or stressful, such as using motorways, driving in a busy town centre, and driving on urban and rural roads in the dark (I’m very glad Claire mentions driving in the dark). In redesigning tuition and testing, input from driving instructors and examiners should be used in conjunction with information about accidents and the experiences of recently qualified drivers.

I don’t agree with the suggestion that ‘those living in remote parts of the country without a motorway network nearby’ should be excluded from motorway training. I don’t think it is necessary to explain why.

MissTash007 says:
19 December 2011

Im a driving instructor, I can say it was refreshing to read an artical stating what I’ve been saying for so long.

I agree that it would be dangerous to take learners on the motorway, they are not predictable and people are impatiant and agressive enough on normal roads when they see a learner. Regarding the night test, this is fantastic, however the summer causes a massive issue here.


saying all that something has to be done. There should be a compulsary 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 camara’s. That way those who need it will use it and those with no motorway network are not effected unless they move to a city when they can do the course and get their motorway licence.

All driving lessons should include a minimum of 2 night lessons, i make a point of taking as many people as i can down a very dark curvey country road. however this is not compulsary and it should be.

I also think that everyone who has to go through a test should have to have had at least 5 hrs signed off by a professional instructor to say that they are happy they can drive consistantly for a minimum of 5 hrs which would reduce the number of ‘fluke tests’ there are.

I also agree that there should be a test every 5 years, if you fail you have to retrain and retake the test.

There is also a concern that there are loads of learner bikes out there who have had a 5hr course to learn what it takes car drivers nearly 30 or more hours on average to learn before they can go out on their own.

Learner motorbikes should be put under the same restrictions as cars, they should have to have 30 hrs accompanied by an instructor before they can go alone.

However, all this is great, but so many people cause accidents by simply driving too close to learners or other drivers, going too fast approaching a roundabout, not looking at a junction. if people just did this and as someone else said treat others with respect, only use our horns as they are intended and not to harrass others then that would help reduce accidents.

sorry for the rant, im a little pationate about road safety and get frustraited that no one ever thinks to ask driving instructors what they think should happen, we see all the stupid things.



Hardly fair. I agree that learning motorway driving is essential but I also think that it’s ridiculous to make young drivers pay for the privilege of using one by making it an “add-on” course. That’s just a way to drain a young driver’s budget further… with the price of fuel, MOT, tax and other motoring costs do you really think this is feasible? I don’t.


Misstash007- a Driving Instructor! perhaps you should check up about the motorcyle test? It is far stricter thanm the car test, with various age restrictions, and enbgine size. A real pity that learner & newly qualified car drivers are not subject to same restrictions- good if they were limited to a 1 litre vehicle for first three years! It also seems that a lot ofr driving instructors are very inexperienced and don’t observe the highway Code- especially when in the learner car on their own. As for a retest every 5 years (vested interest?)- who would carry these our- they can hardly cope with normal tests! The best way to improve behaviour on the roads is the use of dedicated Trafiic Police, withy the power to give on the spot fines; and a compulsory re-test for all transgressions other than parking.


All driving test centres now have to be within easy reach of a good length of dual two-lane trunk road with grade-separated junctions so that driving at that level is part of the tuition and included in the test. Notwithstanding that [unlike motorways] such roads can carry tractors and pedal cycles, it still does not equate to motorway experience where there is usually a minimum of three lanes, more complex junctions where motorways divide and merge, more joining traffic and longer acceleration lanes. I would not be worried that a learner driving under tuition from a fully qualified instructor would be allowed to go on to a motorway prematurely or dawdle in the inside lane or misbehave in the outside lane; the chances are they will be in a dual-control vehicle and already have considerable experience of driving on a major dual-carriageway. It could even be built into a revamp of the progressive tuition syllabus that they do not enter a motorway until they have reached level five of trunk dual-carriageway driving. Of course all the “motorway regulations” signs at the entrances to motorways from all-purpose roads will have to have the “No L-Drivers” bit obliterated [or have those signs already been replaced by the bridge pictogram signs? – Just shows how rusty I am on this myself].