5 September 2017

It’s official. Learners will soon be allowed motorway lessons.

Motorways have always been statistically safer than other roads, which might sound like an odd thing to say at first when you think about the number of vehicles using them and the speeds involved.

It makes sense if you think about it a little more though, as less confident drivers can stick to the inside lane and visibility is much better than on twisty roads in the countryside. Motorways tend to be well lit and are gritted as a priority in the winter. There are also relatively few junctions to deal with and definitely fewer surprises, with no pedestrians, cyclists, pets, delivery vans, speed bumps and other random obstacles to face.

Although motorways tend to be safer, many drivers still avoid them, from older drivers to the young and newly-qualified, which Carrot Insurance specialises in providing telematics insurance policies for. In fact, younger drivers are currently around 5 to 7 times more likely to be killed or seriously injured compared with car drivers aged 25 or over, and of the 120 young drivers killed in 2015, just 4% lost their lives on motorways. Most accidents happened on rural roads.

Motorway learners UK lessons 2018


In recent years, motoring organisations and safety groups like the AA, RAC, IAM RoadSmart and RoSPA have given a thumbs-up to various proposals for learners to be allowed on UK motorways during lessons. It’s therefore clearly not a new idea but has finally been made official, with the government’s Chris Grayling announcing the news a little earlier this month. Learners in England, Scotland and Wales will be allowed on motorways from the start of 2018, which will be here before we know it.

With only a tiny 3% of young and newly-qualified drivers choosing to take additional advanced driving courses like PassPlus after passing their tests, it’s hard to disagree with Neil Greig from IAM RoadSmart who commented:

“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 [read Carrot’s guide here].”

Letting learners on motorways with their parents or other responsible adults wouldn’t be a good idea, so we’re glad the government’s announcement will only allow learners to drive on motorways if they are accompanied by an approved driving instructor (ADI) who feels they are ready, and if the car is fitted with dual controls.

Motorway driving won’t be made part of the actual driving test any time soon and learners don’t have to take lessons on motorways – it’s entirely optional.

Just like with any new development, some people aren’t too happy about the government’s announcement. A number of driving instructors interviewed in the media have expressed concerns that some learners may panic and not have anywhere to pull over, while some members of the public and professional van and lorry drivers fear that nervous pupils driving slowly will cause delays on the UK’s already busy motorways.

It’s surely far better for young novice drivers to experience a motorway for the first time with a calming instructor by their sides than to be thrown in at the deep end, faced with a motorway soon after passing their test, with nobody in the car to give them some reassurance.

Andrew Brown-Allan from Trak Global Group, Carrot’s parent company behind our telematics boxes and apps, was impressed with the government’s announcement:

“This is a welcome step forward and will encourage young people to build their experience by driving more, and driving at different times, in variable conditions and environments, such as motorways.”

We’d love to know how you feel as a parent or young driver, so come and like us on Facebook to join in the discussion.

Oliver Hammond

Written by Oliver Hammond

Oliver is an established freelance motoring writer, published journalist and automotive copywriter based in Manchester. He regularly reviews cars and covers events and launches as editor of petroleumvitae.com and his articles appear in various magazines each month. No relation to Richard from Top Gear, he’s got a weakness for luxo-barges, proper 4x4s and oddball cars.