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Poll: Plan to let learner drivers practise on motorways

Learner drivers will be allowed to practise on motorways for the first time if a government plan to improve road safety is given the go-ahead.

Under current rules, first-time drivers make their way on to motorways after they pass their test, having had no training on the 70mph roads.

On Friday, Transport Minister Andrew Jones announced the plan, which would allow approved instructors to take "competent" trainees on motorways in dual-controlled cars.

RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding and Neil Greig, policy director at the IAM RoadSmart charity, backed the proposal.

Mr Gooding said: "The casualty statistics tell us that motorways are our safest roads, but they can feel anything but safe to a newly-qualified driver heading down the slip road for the first time to join a fast moving, often heavy, flow of traffic.

"Many are so intimidated by the motorway environment that they choose instead to use statistically more dangerous roads, so we welcome this move which will help new drivers get the training they need to use motorways safely."

Mr Greig said it was a "sensible and measured solution", and added: " It makes no sense that new drivers learn by trial and, often fatal, error how to use our fastest and most important roads."

Plans also include motorcyclists having to take a theory test as part of the compulsory basic training (CBT) course, which allows the bikes, as well as mopeds, to be ridden unaccompanied.

CBT certificates will also be revoked if the motorist gets six penalty points if the proposal is approved.

Mr Jones said: "These changes will equip learners with a wider range of experience and greater skill set which will improve safety levels on our roads."

Reports said the Government was considering making learner drivers undertake 120 hours of training before taking their tests, b ut the Department for Transport said there were "no current plans" for such a measure.

A spokeswoman said: "We have commissioned a £2 million research programme that will look at ways we can reduce the number of accidents involving new and inexperienced drivers, and this will look at a range of measures."

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) welcomed the plan.

A spokesman said: "Anything that will provide young drivers with more realistic training to prepare them for when they become independent drivers is good.

"Driving under the supervision of an approved driving instructor and practising entry and exit from slip roads and overtaking will be good experience for learner drivers. We would also be in favour of measures that included a minimum number of hours of training.

"At the moment, research finds that young drivers who do not undertake post-test training, which is the majority of them, feel daunted by the prospect of going on to a motorway for the first time. This means that some may refrain from using motorways, which are the safest roads in the country, and instead use roads that are not as safe."

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