Are new drivers allowed on the motorway?

Congratulations, you’ve passed your driving test! Now you’re allowed out on the roads on your own!

However, before you drive off into the sunset, there are some things you should know. A very common question when it comes to new drivers is; are they allowed on the motorway?

While you would have learnt about motorway driving, you wouldn’t have actually been on a motorway. You aren’t allowed on a motorway until you have passed your test. In this article, we cover whether new drivers are allowed on the motorway and top safety tips for driving on the motorway.

Are new drivers allowed on the motorway?

As long as you have passed your test, you are allowed on a motorway. There are no laws against it. However, driving on the motorway can be a daunting task, especially if you have only just passed your test. Therefore, it’s important that you are clued up before you get out there.

What should I know before I drive on a motorway?

You should be fully prepared before you drive on a motorway for the first time. So here are some of our top tips for ensuring that your first time on the motorway is as smooth as possible;

Take someone with you

You can book extra lessons with your instructor after you have passed your test to go out on the motorway. We definitely recommend this. Not only does your instructor know you and your driving well, but they are also the best person to learn from when it comes to driving on the motorway.

If this is not possible, then take someone you trust and who is calm and reassuring. A parent would be your best bet as they would have been with you when you were driving privately. We don’t recommend you take your friends out with you the first time you drive on the motorway. Unless you have a friend that you trust and is an experienced motorway driver. But, a car full of friends isn’t recommended as they will only serve to distract you.

Stick to the speed limit

The national speed limit on a motorway is 70mph. However, this can change for a number of reasons. Roadworks, or an accident, for example. Stick to the speed limit, if signs are telling you to slow down then you need to do so. Going over the speed limit is not only illegal, it’s dangerous.

Use your mirrors

This sounds silly but your mirrors are important when it comes to motorway driving. Make sure they are clean and correctly positioned before you set off. Don’t forget your blind spots either!

Overtake correctly

You should stay in the left-hand lane unless you are overtaking slower moving traffic. When overtaking you should use the ‘mirror, signal, manoeuvre’ procedure. Avoid sitting in the middle or outside lanes.

Sometimes motorways will have more than 3 lanes. In this case, keep to the lane furthest to the left unless overtaking slower traffic. Watch out for lorries changing lanes, they have bigger blind spots so you should keep your distance.

Keep your distance

Speaking of distance, you should keep it when you are on the motorway. Travelling at higher speeds means you have a longer stoppage time. Therefore you need to keep your distance in case you do have to stop suddenly.

Take breaks

You must take a 15 minute break for every 2 hours of driving. When you are driving on the motorway it’s important that you are as alert as possible. Being tired slows down your response time and is dangerous. There’s no harm in taking a quick coffee break.

Know what to do in the event of a breakdown

Breaking down on the motorway is far from ideal. But, as long as you know what to do, you will be fine.

You will have to move onto the hard shoulder as soon as possible (or a services if you can) and get out of your car. Use your mobile or the emergency phone to call for help. You can read more about what to do in the event of a breakdown here. 

Learn how to exit the motorway properly

Plan your route in advance so you know when you need to exit the motorway. Read the signs so you know how far away your junction is. When you’re close, move to the left lane and signal left at the 300 marker on the road. This lets other drivers know your intention to turn off.

Don’t slow down until you turn off the motorway to keep traffic flowing.

Are there plans to allow learner drivers on the motorway?

Late last year (2016), there were reports that learner drivers would be allowed on the motorway. This was in a shake up to how learner drivers learnt to drive.

The plan was to teach learner drivers how to drive on the motorway to avoid them taking more dangerous back roads when they passed their test. It was reported that, because so many new drivers were nervous about motorway driving, more new drivers were taking back roads to avoid the motorway. Statistically, these roads are more dangerous than motorways. According to the Government website, under the new plans, learner drivers will be able to take driving lessons on a motorway before passing their driving test. However, these lessons are entirely voluntary and it’s up to the instructor to decide whether the learner is competent enough to have a motorway lesson. The learner driver must also be accompanied by an approved driving instructor and in a car that is fitted with dual controls. However, these plans have not yet become law. Whether these changes will come to fruition is still to be seen. So watch this space.

Other safety tips for new drivers

Of course, you don’t want to just be safe on the motorway. There are some other tips that you should know before you get out on the road for the first time on your own;

  • Know the law
    • An obvious one, but the law is constantly changing. For example, there are new laws surrounding using your mobile phone when driving. These have only come into effect recently and have drastically changed from the previous laws. Keep up to date with the latest changes otherwise you could end up in trouble without realising what you’ve done wrong.
  • Know your limits
    • Only you know what you can and can’t do. If you aren’t ready to go on a three-hour long road trip, don’t go on a three-hour long road trip. When you first start driving, take small journeys through routes you know. Build up your confidence slowly.
  • Know what to do in an emergency
    • Unfortunately, new drivers get into accidents often. Therefore, it’s important that you know what to do in the event of an accident. You can read our article on what to do in the event of an accident here.
  • Think about taking part in a Pass Plus scheme or similar
    • These schemes are great if you want to boost your confidence, and lower your insurance while you’re at it. They will also teach you how to drive on the motorway so they are extremely useful. We recommend a scheme by the IAM. 

You can read more about the IAM here.

In conclusion, new drivers are allowed on the motorway. Learner drivers are not allowed on the motorway yet, but there may be plans to allow them to have lessons on the motorway in the future. However, this is unconfirmed. The main thing when it comes to driving on the motorway is to stick to the speed limits and to know how to overtake and exit correctly. Taking breaks is also important as being tired can greatly reduce your reaction times and can be very dangerous. We also recommend driving with someone you trust and is an experienced driver out with you for your first time on the motorway. They will be able to reassure you if you are unsure. 

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