Learner drivers could be allowed onto Britain's motorway network as soon as 2018, the government has announced, as it launches new plans designed to improve driver training.
The new measures, which are also aimed at improving road safety, would see 'competent' learner drivers taught how to handle motorways, which are statistically some of the safest roads in the country. Learners would be accompanied by an approved instructor driving a car with dual controls. However, as with the current driving test, motorway driving would not form part of a driver's final assessment.
Currently, drivers are only allowed to use motorways once they have passed their practical test. In fact, motorway driving education is only covered as part of the government's official Pass Plus scheme, an add-on educational programme for new drivers.
The Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) course for motorcyclists is also changing to move more in line with car driving education. New measures include introducing a theory test for novice riders, revoking the CBT certificate if a provisonal licence holder gets more than six penalty points, and resticting learners to riding an automatic motorcycle if they take their CBT on one.
Announcing the plans, Transport Minister Andrew Jones said the UK had some of the safest roads "in the world," and that "these changes will equip learners with a wider range of experience and greater skill set which will improve safety levels on our roads."
Chief Executive of the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency Gareth Llewellyn said: "We want to modernise driver and motorcycle training so that novice drivers and riders gain the skills and knowledge they need to help them stay safe."
Motoring charity the RAC foundation has welcomed the measures, saying that some new drivers find motorways so daunting that they'll deliberately use statistically more dangerous routes to avoid them.
The government has launched a formal consultation on the measures, which will run until 17th February. If approved, they could come into force in 2018. These plans were first unveiled last year, and form part of a £2 million study into improving driver education.