Learners on motorways – instant success or slow burner

Blog post posted on 24/10/17 |

Government announcements – don’t you just love them? Well, yes and no. Yes, in that they bring IAM RoadSmart loads of media coverage, and no, because the latest came out at 10.30 on a Saturday evening – not easy to plan for! The latest was an important announcement about the long touted idea of allowing learners on motorways.  We had already supported the concept in a consultation reply many months ago and it was good to see the government adopting all the recommendations we liked.

The subsequent media coverage was universally positive.  Vox pops and interviewers all seeming to agree that their own memories of the first time on a motorway had been very traumatic and lessons would have helped. 

The research is clear – the more experience you have as a learner the safer you will in your future driving career.  I have no doubt this will be reinforced for those who can get motorway lessons when they become available in 2018. 

This did get me thinking once again about the reality of road safety and the real impact that a change such as this can make.  Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a great idea and learners should never have been banned in the first place. 

Whichever civil servant in the dim and distant past came up with that one should get a medal for lack of common sense – how can it possibly be right that we learn how to master our fastest and most unique roads on our own!

That decade’s long delay simply means it will be even longer before the full accident and congestion savings from allowing learners to deal with motorways properly will be felt.  The extra lessons will cost money so they may become the preserve of those who can afford them, and you will need to live pretty close to a motorway to make it viable. 

For drivers in Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Liverpool, Bristol or around the M25, where motorways are part of most driver’s everyday commute, it will be a godsend.  For the rest of us it may take some time before we notice that the drivers around us on the M-whatever actually look like they know what they are doing.

With new smart motorways coming on stream now is a really good time to be getting professional help in negotiating complex new systems.  Motorways are our key economic arteries but to work efficiently they do require us all to know how to use them safely – it is incidents not roadworks that lead to the longest delays! 

If anyone is worried that learners in the fast lane might make things worse then an IAM RoadSmart motorway module might be ideal solution.

Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart’s director of policy and research