Learner drivers are allowed on Britain’s motorways from today following a law change.
It is hoped the new policy will better prepare novice motorists for driving at higher speeds and learn how to use motorways correctly.
Drivers were previously only allowed on motorways after passing their test. From today, learners can have lessons on the 70mph roads if accompanied by an approved instructor and driving a car fitted with dual controls.
Road Safety Minister Jesse Norman said: “Britain’s roads are among the safest in the world, but road collisions remain the second biggest killer of young people.
“Allowing learner drivers to have motorway lessons with a qualified road safety expert will help more young drivers to gain the skills and experience they need to drive safely on motorways.”
One in 12 (eight per cent) current licence holders avoid motorways for at least six months after passing their test, according to an AA poll of more than 20,000 motorists.
More than a quarter (27 per cent) said they felt scared when they did venture on to a motorway for the first time.
A fifth (20 per cent) of all fatalities on Britain’s roads in 2016 involved crashes where a driver was aged 17-24, despite that age category making up just seven per cent of all licence holders, Department for Transport figures show.
The law change has been welcomed by motoring groups.
Edmund King, director of the AA Charitable Trust, said: “Young drivers are drastically over-represented in crashes. This change, which will help broaden the opportunities they have while learning, is very positive.
“It is somewhat perverse that five minutes after passing the driving test a new driver could venture alone on to a motorway without having had any motorway tuition.”
Motorway driving is not being added to the test and lessons are voluntary. It will be up to instructors to decide whether a learner is ready for them.
Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, said: “If learning to drive is preparing for whatever the road network can throw at you, then this change is a logical step.
“It will help keep our motorways the safest routes we have.”
Neil Greig, director of policy and research at charity IAM RoadSmart, said: “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.”
Yorkshire-based road safety charity Brake wants the Government to go further and introduce a graduated driver licensing system which includes restrictions for a certain period after passing the test such as a late-night driving curfew.
The organisation’s director of campaigns, Joshua Harris, said: “While today’s move is a small step in the right direction, a total overhaul in the way in which we learn to drive is urgently needed.”