Learner drivers allowed on motorways04 Jun 2018

L plates to become familiar site on fastest roads

Learner drivers are to be allowed onto Britain’s motorways.

Anybody under instruction will now be able to take to the country’s busiest road at the discretion of, and accompanied by, a qualified driving instructor.

The change will not extend to learner motorcyclists.

The Department for Transport expects the new rules to offer those receiving tuition the ability to broaden their knowledge, improve them confidence, understand the intricacies of motorways (slip roads, variable speed limits, hard shoulder and all lane running) and learn what to do in the event of a breakdown.

Government is advising instructors to only take their pupils onto motorways at the point at which they are exam-ready. The guidance makes clear that motorway driving is not a compulsory part of the syllabus and won’t form part of the test.

The first motorway in Britain was opened back in 1958 (now part of the M6, it was then known as the Preston bypass).

Motorways account for just one percent of Britain’s total road length – 2,268 miles out of 246,510 miles – but carry more than a fifth of all traffic.

The average free-flow speed is 68 mph, while 11% of drivers exceed the limit by more than 10 mph.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said:

“Gone are the days when learners had to steer clear of our busiest and fastest roads. Now, under the eagle eye of their instructors, they will be actively welcomed.

“If learning to drive is preparing for whatever the road network can throw at you then this change is a logical step and will help keep our motorways – the first of which was opened in 1958 – the safest routes we have.”

The change in the law comes after amendments to the driving test made in December 2017 which included:

  1. an increase in the independent driving part of the test from 10 minutes to 20 minutes
  2. following directions from a sat nav
  3. new reversing procedures:The ‘reverse around a corner’ and ‘turn-in-the-road’ manoeuvres will no longer be tested, but you should still be taught them by your instructor.You’ll be asked to do one of 3 possible reversing manoeuvres:
    • parallel park at the side of the road
    • park in a bay – either driving in and reversing out, or reversing in and driving out (the examiner will tell you which you have to do)
    • pull up on the right-hand side of the road, reverse for 2 car lengths and rejoin the traffic
  4. answering a vehicle safety question while you’re driving




Philip Gomm – Head of External Communications – RAC Foundation

[email protected] | 020 7747 3445 | 07711 776448 | 020 7389 0601 (ISDN)

Notes to editors:

The RAC Foundation is a transport policy and research organisation that explores the economic, mobility, safety and environmental issues relating to roads and their users.

The Foundation publishes independent and authoritative research with which it promotes informed debate and advocates policy in the interest of the responsible motorist.

All the Foundation’s work is available on its website: