Driving on motorways used to require a full licence. However from 4th June 2018 that is no longer the case. Learner drivers will be permitted onto motorways, as long as they are with an approved driving instructor in a dual control car. This change is part of a raft of changes of late to better prepare young drivers and reduce road traffic accidents. The number of fatal or serious accidents involving young drivers has fallen each year since 2000. However, thousands of young drivers are involved in fatal or serious road traffic collisions each year. 17-24 year olds make up 1.5% of licence holders, yet are involved in 9% of the fatal and serious road traffic accidents each year.
Whilst there a number of factors which contribute to that, it is largely due to inexperience. That of course can be overcome by proper preparation. The test has undergone major changes of late to prepare drivers for driving on modern roads. The test was recently adapted to involve using a satellite navigation system.
Until this month the first time a young driver could use a motorway was after they pass their test. They would therefore require to either pay for additional Pass Plus lessons, go out with a relative, or simply brave it alone. Whilst there are less accidents on motorways than country roads, they are a very daunting prospect for new drivers. This change allows drivers to practice with an instructor, in a duel controlled car and therefore by the time they pass their test actually be prepared for the roads they will encounter.
This is a positive small step towards putting better prepared drivers on our roads. However, we need a huge leap. We need young drivers who are confident in all road types and all road conditions. There are ten times more accidents on country roads. There are significantly more accidents in icy conditions, on roundabouts, and at night. At present a new driver can pass their test and not have experienced any of these, let alone them all cumulatively.
There is no required number of lessons, or hours on the road before a person can obtain a full licence. Simply the ability to drive properly for 1 hour on a piece of road they will be used to, during daylight hours. Brake recommends a 12 month learner period and thereafter a 2 year novice period where restrictions are imposed such as late night driving. They point out only 4% of collisions occur on motorways.
There have never been more cars on the road. One small mistake can cost lives. Now is the time for a complete rethink, not just of the test, but of a holistic overhaul of how young drivers are trained. Surely they deserve to be properly prepared and should have proven they can deal with all road conditions and all road types before being let loose on the road?