Currently reading: New UK driving test: learners to be allowed on motorways from today
More real-world driving tweaks have been made to exam in effort to bring it in line with more modern motorist behaviour

Changes to the UK driving test have led to the introduction of a new law to allow learner drivers under tuition to venture onto motorways for the first time in a dual-control car.

As part of efforts to introduce features that are more representative of modern-day driving in the learning process, learners can be taken onto motorways with an instructor, as long as their car is a dual-control vehicle wearing L-plates.

The new law comes into force today. Although learners still won't be taken onto the motorway during their test, lessons on motorways are intended to better prepare new drivers for a section of road that they were previously not allowed to use — something that several safety experts said was a hindrance to driving standards.

A new online Driving Hub has been launched to help learners prepare themselves for the motorways that Highways England refers to as "high-speed driving roads". 

The addition of motorway driving to lessons follows the introduction of a modified and modernised driving test. Tests now challenge candidates with more manoeuvres, such as reverse bay parking, with former test features, such as reversing around a corner, having been removed. Motorway lessons are not compulsory, however; it's down to the discretion of driving instructors as to whether they take their students out on the motorway. 

Despite the motorway lessons, driving on the motorway will not become part of the driving test. A study carried out by Citroën and drivers' group IAM Roadsmart found that 61% of IAM members agreed that motorway driving should be mandatory on the test before new drivers are awarded their licences. 

A separate study by the AA showed that 8% of drivers avoided the motorway in the first six months after gaining their licence, while just 25% of those questioned felt prepared to venture onto the motorway post-test. More than half would have welcomed the opportunity to experience the motorway as a learner, and a third thought they would have been a safer driver with this tuition. The association has also set up a fund to allow new drivers who missed the chance to have motorway tuition to venture onto the motorway with an instructor.

In the wake of the sat-nav-oriented changes to the driving test, Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) research shows that half of motorists use sat-nav, but around a quarter of accidents involving new drivers are caused by them being distracted. The new test aims to address this by integrating a sat-nav into the test for the first time.

Drivers taking the test are now asked to follow directions to a predetermined destination, enabling examiners to assess a driver's ability to follow instruction while also adhering to road signs.


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The independent driving section of the test, when drivers are asked to follow signs to a destination without further instruction from the examiner or sat-nav, will also be extended from 10 to 20 minutes.

Additionally, examiners now ask safety questions while the driver is on the move and can ask them to turn on certain controls, such as the rear heated screen.

Edmund King, president of the AA, welcomed the changes earlier this year, telling Autocar: “We know that new drivers are a higher risk on the roads, therefore we need to better prepare them for real-world driving. These changes will test drivers in a more realistic manner, which is essential to improving their safety once their L-plates are removed. The changes, particularly the extended independent driving and use of a sat-nav, should help to produce better, safer motorists.

“We have already had positive feedback from our driving instructors and their pupils, and therefore fully support these proposed changes.

“In the future, we will need to see further changes to the test when we have more electric, connected and semi-autonomous cars on our roads.”

Read more: 

UK driving test set for changes in 2017

Autocar launches safer learner driver scheme

Join the debate

Add a comment…
Peter Cavellini 1 June 2018

Early learning.......

 Road craft, an old fashioned way to describe driving a Car where your asked to multi task all of which we know, our tests didn’t include all the tech that’s inside a Car today,but, the art of reversing into a space round a Corner observing the Traffic around you are what you hone when you pass, to me nowadays to many Drivers invent rules to suit, pet hates are drivers who park against the flow of traffic, two wheels on the Pavement the ones who drive six inches of your bumper the ones who use the force to drive the weaver bird ones, these are the ones who just learnt to pass a test and then just drive like there attitude to life arrogant your wrong their always right the spoilt child attitude to driving, all this tech is distracting, your driving a potential killing machine not driving an I-pad!

catnip 4 December 2017

Keeping up with current

Keeping up with current trends, maybe learners could be asked to adjust the climate controls via the touchscreen menu, without taking their eyes off the road.

hotwheels 28 November 2017

Sense and sensibility

Sounds like a good update of the test, acknowledging new technology and removing out of date, less useful skills, such as reversing round a corner. I can't remember the last time I did that! I would even argue it's not a particularly safe manoeuvre anyway, especially with modern traffic levels. Parking skills are a good move. I would also like to see motorway driving included as part of the learning/testing procedure. Lane and speed/distance discipline on most of our motorways is shocking, not to mention signalling and general observation skills.

si73 28 November 2017

Agree with most of that but

Agree with most of that but surely motorway skills are tested by dual carriageway driving? Its about 50+ miles to the motorway from where I live but my daughter had to drive on the main dual carriageway A road at motorway speeds during her test, though I'd imagine there are places around the uk where neither are available.