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A change in the law allowing learner drivers on the motorway has been welcomed by Shropshire road safety experts.
Since 4 June 2018, learner drivers have been allowed on motorways to hone their skills as long as they’re in a dual-controlled car with an approved instructor.
The new law means that learners can drive on motorways should their instructor deem them competent enough to do so, but it won’t be part of the driving test.
It gives them the chance to broaden their experience and practice driving at higher speeds, training on how to join and leave the motorway and understanding motorway signs.
Shropshire Road Safety Group Welcomes Law Change
IAM RoadSmart, which has a local group in Shropshire, has called the law change as a ‘welcome safeguard’.
Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said: “IAM RoadSmart strongly welcomes this common-sense change to the law on motorway driving.
“It has never made sense to us that new drivers on our most important roads learned how to use them by trial and potentially fatal error. The government’s insistence on the use of approved instructors and dual-controlled cars is a welcome safeguard that will ensure consistent levels of training and a proper phased introduction to motorway driving skills.”
“Delays and injuries caused by driver error blight our motorways and with new systems such as smart motorways being widely introduced, it is vital that the level of knowledge and skill among motorway users is improved to keep our key economic routes flowing.
“Any current drivers who feel the need to refresh their skills or improve their confidence and enjoyment on the motorway can take an IAM RoadSmart motorway module today.”
Novices were previously only allowed to drive on motorways once they had passed their test. Now campaigners hope that it will improve safety, especially among young drivers.
Shropshire Advanced Motorists and Motorcyclists (SAMM), the local group of IAM RoadSmart told JT Hughes they support IAM RoadSmart’s statement regarding learner drivers on the motorways.
“Furthermore, SAMM look forward to possibly meeting some these individuals for their advanced driving course once they have passed the test.
“The IAM and the local SAMM group continue to make some of the best drivers on the road. This is being promoted further through the SAMM Young Drivers Scheme, in association with the Shropshire fire service. This is open to all car drivers under the age of 26.”
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Will The New Law Help Learners Become Safer Drivers?
Shropshire Driving Instructor Bill Hancock spoke to JT Hughes about his thoughts on the rule change saying that it would help learners become more familiar with motorway driving, but being competent and safe on the roads comes down to a good attitude toward driving safely.
“Any initial training on the motorways tops off your knowledge and this also goes for after your test,” he said.
“Would it help someone learn how to drive on the motorway? Yes, it would for someone who wasn’t sure what to do.”
“Would it make it safer? It’s all down to the attitude of the driver. Some say that driving instructors can influence drivers and help them become safer – but I don’t believe that.”
“The attitude of the drivers can often come from their mum and dad. They learn by what they see. Education starts at an early age. We can’t turn them into a responsible driver. The overall attitude toward driving comes from them.”
Learner drivers are perhaps putting an emphasis on passing their test as quickly as possible, rather than focusing on the bigger picture and keeping safe on the roads, he added.
“They have an objective to pass and that’s it. They believe accidents happen to someone else.”
No Time for Complacency
While accident rates have dropped over the years, thanks to automated safety features and tech, learner drivers Bill warns that drivers shouldn’t get complacent.
“Accident rates may have dropped but is that reduction down to better driving? No, cars are much safer due to crumple zones and airbags.”
He added that while learning how to drive on the motorway is definitely a good thing and will work, he questions whether this would make safer drivers of those living in more rural areas where they wouldn’t need to drive on the motorway on a regular basis.
“Motorways are statistically the safest roads. No horses, no junctions, no roundabouts and road signs are always giving you information on what is coming up and what is there.”
“If someone lives in Birmingham or travels there to work then yes, learning on a motorway is important and teaches them how to cope on with driving on a motorway.”
Edmund King added: “It is ironic that so many drivers avoid motorways after passing their test when, statistically, they are our safest roads.”
“It will also provide a great opportunity to educate a new generation of drivers about avoiding many drivers’ pet hates such as middle lane hogging, tailgating and swooping.
“It is somewhat perverse that five minutes after passing the driving test a new driver could venture alone onto a motorway without having had any motorway tuition.”
Many Drivers Fear the Motorway
Driving on the motorway can strike fear into the hearts of new and inexperienced drivers. They are busy and intimidating especially if you are in a small car driving at speed alongside large and heavy vehicles.
Motorway driving is usually very safe but according to research by the RAC, suffering fear of driving on the motorway is more common than it seems.
Eight million of Britain’s 38 million drivers claim they rarely drive on the motorway with most saying it is because they don’t need to. But nearly a third say they either dislike doing so or get someone else to drive them if they do need to go on the motorway.
More than a quarter (27%) of drivers said they were scared when they first ventured on to motorways, according to an AA Survey of 20,000 motorists.
The AA compiled a list with a number of reasons why drivers may feel nerves when driving on a motorway. These include:
1. Behaviour of other drivers
2. Adverse weather conditions
3. Large trucks and lorries
4. Poor road conditions (e.g. potholes and markings)
5. Lack of a hard shoulder
6. The possibility of breaking down
7. Driving at night
8. Joining and leaving the motorway
9. Travelling at high speeds
10. Changing lane
Motorway Driving Tips
If you are a new driver or about to start learning and a little apprehensive about going on the motorway, we spoke to The AA for some advice to help you feel more confident and safe:
“In terms of tips for learner drivers taking to the motorway for the first time we would advise them to stay calm. Learners are only allowed on the motorway under the supervision of a fully qualified driving instructor in a dual-controlled car.”
“Their instructor should not take them on the motorway until they are confident they have the skills to cope with it, so any learner taking this step in their lessons can take heart from the fact their instructor has confidence in them and their abilities.”
“Like any driver on the motorway, they will need to pay close attention to the distance they leave between themselves and other cars; keep to a safe speed while making good progress; ensure they check their blindspots when changing lanes and make sure they use the lanes correctly.”
Bill explained that as an instructor he first helps the learner become familiar with the motorway.
“What I would do is drive on the motorway to show the learner how to join the motorway, how to stay in lane and how to use mirrors correctly.”
“Although the speed limit is 70mph, that doesn’t mean you have to be doing that. However, if a truck is doing 40mph then you have to overtake and I would teach them how to do that safely.”
The AA offers further help, advice, information, and confidence-boosting lessons for motorway driving.