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Learner drivers to be allowed on motorways

In this day and age, practically everyone wants to be able to drive a car. And everyone, therefore, needs to learn sometime, meaning plenty of learner drivers on the road.

Young and inexperienced drivers may be more vulnerable to driving error and road traffic accidents whilst they are on the necessary learning curve – and young driver insurance has conventionally recognised those higher risks by pitching the price of premiums at a relatively high rate.

Striking a safe balance

As young drivers are learning and attempting to gain the experience that stands them in good stead as future road users, it may be difficult to strike a safe balance between exposing them on the one hand to new hazards and dangers, but on the other hand, protecting them from more hazardous driving environments.

One of the long-established means of helping to keep learner drivers – and the other road users they encounter – safer has been the legal requirement that they are accompanied by a qualified driver, who holds a full driving licence and who is fully aware of driving conditions at all times (they are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, for instance).

Until now, a further restriction on learner drivers – those who hold a provisional driving licence only – has been their exclusion from driving on motorways, even when accompanied by a holder of a full driving licence. The rationale has been that a motorway represents too dangerous an environment in which to learn the skills they need.

This has all changed as a result of government decisions announced at the end of 2016. In future, learner drivers will be allowed to drive on motorways – whilst still under the supervision of a qualified driver, of course.

The decision has been taken for two main reasons:

Gaining the skills

  • whilst learner drivers have been banned from motorways, it has meant that they have had no opportunity to learn the skills necessary for doing so, until they have passed their driving test;
  • one day they are banned from driving in motorway conditions, but the next day after passing their driving test, they may take to the motorway, completely unfamiliar with the particular skills necessary and unaccompanied by any qualified driver to teach them the ropes;
  • in an attempt to make good this gap in experience, the government’s Pass Plus scheme is a six-hour period of post driving test practical training, which leads to the issue of the relevant certificate;
  • as an incentive to encourage newly qualified young drivers to take the Pass Plus test, many insurers have offered discounts on the cost of premiums for those who successfully undertake Pass Plus;

Increased dangers on A roads

  • another of the consequences of the former ban on learner drivers from motorways is that learners and newly qualified drivers too, stick to driving on A roads;
  • research has suggested that these may represent just as dangerous an environment to the inexperienced driver as a motorway;
  • lifting the ban on learner drivers from motorways, therefore, may help to relieve the pressure on evermore congested A roads.

Many motoring organisations support the lifting of the ban, and believe that motorways represent one of the safest driving environments and one with which learner drivers should also have the opportunity to become familiar.

Related reading: Young Drivers Insurance Guide

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