For decades, newly qualified drivers have faced a daunting challenge after earning their licence: heading up a motorway slip road and joining a fast-moving stream of 70mph traffic, often without ever having driven on one of these roads before.
You could have passed your theory test with flying colours and bossed your practical without any major infractions, but research shows you’re actually more likely to avoid motorways and use roads which are statistically more dangerous instead.
That’s why the Government has unveiled new proposals which could transform the way you learn to drive. Under the plans, once a learner driver is deemed as “competent” by a qualified instructor, the driver will have the chance to get behind the wheel and onto the highway under the instructor’s direction in a dual-controlled car.
Campaigners have welcomed the move, and say it doesn’t make sense that the newest motorists on Britain’s roads are expected to learn the different technique of driving in motorway traffic through “trial and error”.
The New Government Proposal: Important Facts
Skills to learn by practising motorway driving
In its official announcement, the Government said it hopes motorway practice will help learner drivers feel comfortable travelling at higher speeds -- beyond those they may have been accustomed to on dual carriageways or country roads.
It’s going to be a voluntary scheme -- and this means that you don’t have to take part in motorway lessons, nor will your instructor have to offer them. However, it’s unlikely you’ll regret the experience, as benefits include:
- Being able to apply your theoretical knowledge in a real-world situation.
- Knowing how to correctly join and leave the motorway after doing so under the supervision of a trained professional.
- Learning about overtaking other drivers safely, and the purpose of each lane.
- Understanding what to do if you have a problem with your vehicle, such as a breakdown, and the essential precautions you need to take if using a hard shoulder.
Your first time on a motorway: top tips to remember
Unfortunately, we don’t have a clear timeframe for when the proposals to let learner drivers practise on motorways will get the green light. It seems the legislation is moving pretty slowly -- and interestingly, this idea was first proposed decades ago but didn’t gain any traction.
So: if you’re already in the process of learning, you might not get the chance to practise on a motorway in the near future. Remember: until the plans are confirmed, it remains illegal for provisional licence holders to drive on these major roads under any circumstances.
For those of you who have just passed and are nervous about making your debut on a motorway, here are some do’s and don’ts:
- Do ask an experienced motorist (it doesn’t have to be your instructor) to travel with you for your first time on a motorway once you’ve got your coveted pink licence. They’ll be able to give you reassurance and guidance when entering and exiting the motorway. It’s a good idea to travel accompanied on several different occasions: when conditions are wet on the roads, when rush-hour traffic is heavy, when it’s dark (especially as many motorways these days are not lit at night), and when roadworks are under way.
- Do be decisive. Remember that being nervous and hesitant can actually be more dangerous for yourself and other motorists around you. Indicating in good time, waiting for a decent gap in traffic and smooth manoeuvres will all help in your communication with fellow road users.
- Don’t get too close to other motorists. Chevrons on our motorways are often helpful in reminding you to keep your distance. If someone in front of you needs to brake all of a sudden, a gap of at least two seconds is going to allow you to come to a complete halt without a collision.
Example practice questions for motorway driving
Since September 2016, the hazard perception part of theory tests always includes at least one clip about travelling on motorways and dual carriageways safely -- and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is currently in the process of creating more clips, making further questions even likelier.
Here are three example questions you could face in a theory test. You can also take full mock tests right now on our website.