Changes to the Highway Code for Learner Drivers


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By Grace Hickman

on Monday 4 June 2018


Red car with L plate

Can you remember your first time driving on the motorway after passing your test? Were you full of confidence or a little wobbly bag of nerves?

Going from the pond of byways to a chaotic sea of vehicles, lanes and junctions is scary to say the least. Liberating, but daunting.

As of today (4th June 2018), the Highway Code rules regarding learner drivers using the motorway have changed.

Before this, it stood that drivers were only allowed to have lessons on the motorway after passing their driving test – you could do this by partaking in the Pass Plus training course.

As the Pass Plus course was (and still is) optional, more often than not, the certified and enthusiastic new driver just takes the plunge and braves it out there alone once the test is over and done with. It’s nerve-wracking, but after a couple of practices – easy, right?

Rule 253 Update

The original rule:

“Motorways MUST NOT be used by pedestrians, holders of provisional motorcycle or car licences, riders of motorcycles under 50 cc, cyclists, horse riders, certain slow-moving vehicles and those carrying oversized loads (except by special permission), agricultural vehicles, and powered wheelchairs/powered mobility scooters.”

The change to this rule refers to the second point in the list.

Today marks the date where learner drivers can use the motorway before passing their test and while learning – under these conditions only:

  • They must be accompanied by an approved, qualified driving instructor.
  • The car must have dual controls.
  • The instructor’s car must either display a driving school rooftop box, or the L plates on the front and back.

Ultimately, the learner driver doesn’t have to have motorway lessons - they are not compulsory and it is the instructor’s choice as to whether they feel the learner is at a competent level.

The changes apply to those learning to drive cars only – those learning to ride a motorcycle are still not allowed on the motorway.

And just to put the learners out there at ease – driving on a motorway won’t be part of the test! While it could potentially become part of test day in the future, as of yet, nothing has been stated to suggest otherwise.

So Why the Change?

The government have decided to make the change because they feel it will better prepare learner drivers, give them more confidence and driving experience and raise awareness of how to navigate the motorway safely overall.

Generally, young drivers (classed as being aged 17 to 24) are at a much higher risk of being involved in a road traffic accident in comparison to older drivers. Brake.org states that around 23% (one in four) of young drivers crash within the first two years of passing their test. For these reasons, the government feel that changing rule 253 is one step to help reduce these risks and statistics.

Other main reasons for updating the rule are for learner drivers to:

  • Get used to driving at a higher speed (up to 70mph).
  • Practice joining and leaving the motorway.
  • Understand signs used on the motorway.
  • Gain knowledge of what to do when your car breaks down in constant fast-moving traffic.

As a new driver taking to the roads, these things can be really scary! So getting practice in them while learning is a big plus.

Start Being Aware of Learner Drivers on the Motorway!

Not to say that the roads will soon be inundated with learner drivers, but those who have passed their test and are more experienced need to be aware of how to act when driving near learners.

Patience is really important. Learner drivers may lack confidence and their skills will not be as finely tuned as experienced drivers – please try to remain patient with them. Remember what it was like when you were learning! There’s nothing worse than that added pressure of worrying about upsetting other, more experienced, drivers.

As usual, you should always be spatially aware while driving – maintaining that safe distance between you and the driver in front. Depending on the conditions, such as poor road quality or wet, icy weather, you should be leaving even more space than usual. Remember this for learners – even if they’re driving a lot slower than you’d like, always keep that distance and don’t put pressure on them.

Embrace the Change

This change in the Highway Code is being embraced by the RAC who feel it will “improve safety and enhance the confidence of new drivers.”

At Non Fault Claims, we also feel that improving the confidence and expanding the experience of learner drivers with the option of learning on the motorway, is a positive change for all – hopefully reducing the high risk-factor belonging to the younger generation of drivers.

Our motorways are generally the safest roads out there – but sometimes nerves can get the better of us. Just don’t get on them the wrong way – if you see a lot of blank, grey signs, that’s the wrong way!!

To those more experienced drivers – let’s all pull together and make sure their experience is a safe and enjoyable one.

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