An overwhelming majority of motorists believe learner drivers should be allowed to take driving lessons on the motorway with an approved instructor in a dual-controlled car, according to the RAC.
Eight in 10 (79%) of the 2,000-plus motorists questioned were in favour of the Government’s proposal to let learners gain experience on the UK’s fastest roads before they pass their tests. The Department for Transport and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency consultation on the idea closed in mid-February and a decision is expected very soon, possibly this week.
A similar proportion (78%) believe the proposals will lead to an improvement in the driving standards of newly qualified drivers when using the motorway network. Nineteen per cent think they will not make any difference and only 3% believe they would worsen standards.
This overwhelming support is not surprising given that half (49%) of those surveyed said that they did not feel the practical and theory tests adequately prepared them for motorway driving. Four in 10 (39%) said they felt partially prepared with only 14% considering themselves to have been fully prepared.
Asked to recall how they felt the first time they used a motorway, 42% said they were somewhat nervous and 16% admitted to being very nervous.
A quarter (26%) said they were not at all anxious and 16% remembered being more excited than nervous. For 1%, however, the thought of going on a motorway has perhaps proved too much as they say they have never driven on one.
RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said, “The RAC supports the proposal to allow learner drivers to have the option of motorway driving lessons. We would not, however, be in favour of making such a measure mandatory as many learner drivers do not live in an area which has access to the motorway network. In addition, those drivers that live in regions furthest away from a motorway are less likely to drive on one on a regular basis.
“Statistically, motorways are the UK’s safest roads, but they do present significant risks by virtue of the fact that motorists are in a high-speed environment. Such high speeds can make a driver who has recently passed their practical test feel nervous and more vulnerable the first time they venture on to these types of roads. As a result, new drivers may decide to delay using a motorway, possibly opting to use less safe country roads or major A-roads instead.
“It’s also a good time to implement such a policy as, nearly 60 years** after the first motorway was opened, new designs of motorway are appearing, with an increasing number of ‘smart motorways’ presenting drivers with variable limits, no hard shoulder, and emergency refuge areas.
“It seems sensible that approved driving instructors are best placed to decide when their students are ready to have their first motorway lesson, but the Government needs to consider publishing guidance on how to assess whether a learner is sufficiently competent to drive on a motorway under supervision.”