Learner drivers could be 'risk on motorways' this year

Motorway

There are fears more accidents will happen on Britain's motorways when learners are allowed to drive on them later this year.

At the moment it is illegal to get behind the wheel on motorways in the UK until after passing the driving test.

Roads minister Mike Penning says he plans to change that by the summer.

He says many new drivers are terrified of motorway driving because they do not have the skills or confidence needed.

The extra training should also bring down the cost of insurance premiums for new drivers, according to the minister.

He told Newsbeat: "If we can show insurers someone has got skills of their own accord, I would expect them to drop their premiums proportionately and that is what I will be telling them."

'Nerve-wracking'

Jenny Hacking is 21 and is learning to drive in Leeds.

She said she would get home quicker from college on the motorway but is dreading it.

Jenny Hacking
Jenny Hacking says she is "dreading" using the motorway for the first time

"It's nerve-wracking," she admitted. "I'm apprehensive about all the drivers going fast and thinking, 'Shall I switch lanes now or should I stay where I am?' They could get really impatient."

Statistically motorways are the safest roads and that is partly why driving instructors are supportive of the change.

The Driving Instructors Association (DIA) says new drivers should be encouraged to use these bigger roads more.

However, some drivers are concerned that learners on the motorway will cause more accidents, stressful situations and delays.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) says no-one should be allowed to drive on them until after they have passed their test.

Some lorry drivers think even then they should stay off the motorway until they have had more experience behind the wheel.

Quieter roads

Steve Bowles runs a transport company just off the M25, close to London's Heathrow Airport.

He said: "If it was a free for all at any time of day then no way. I don't want to see people hurt.

"If it was, say, only at weekends, in good weather, when the roads are quieter, then there could perhaps be a place for it."

Mike Penning says there will be no conditions like that imposed.

He says he will be able to bring the change in using powers he has, known as delegated legislation.

Responding to the safety warnings, he described them as "the biggest load of rubbish he had ever heard" and says there is no evidence for not doing it.

There are no plans to make learning to drive on motorways compulsory, as some people who live in rural areas would have a long way to travel for the training.

You would have to be with a qualified instructor in a dual controlled car.

The change would apply across England, Wales and Scotland.

The Northern Ireland Assembly says it is considering it too and will announce a decision soon.