Saturday, 8 April 2017
Learner Drivers on Motorways? Yes Indeed
The time is getting near when learner drivers will be allowed on motorways with a qualified Approved Driving Instructor in a dual controlled car. I regard motorway driving as an important part of driving knowledge and experience which should always have been included in the learning to drive syllabus from the very beginning. Depending on where people are learning to drive this isn't always possible. The nearest motorway could be a long way off and not be reachable on a standard driving lesson. Here in Nottingham we have easy access to the M1 which gives every driving instructor the opportunity to teach the skills necessary for safe motorway driving. This has been a wasted opportunity for learner drivers and the sooner we can get on there the better.
According to research younger drivers who are fearful of driving on the motorway are taking routes along back roads where statistically they are more likely to have an accident. This situation seems ridiculous to me. Surely Motorways are an integral part of teaching safe driving for life? Instead motorway driving is viewed as an add on, not something which is strictly necessary and certainly not given the importance it deserves. I like many other driving instructors offer motorway training on it's own as well as part of the Pass Plus scheme. The take up on this type of training is very low. After paying a good amount for lessons it's hard to ask people to spend more after they have passed the L test. I hardly ever go out on the M1 with a learner. Those that do go out are always happy that they did and to be honest they pick it up pretty quickly.
Unfortunately the scariest part comes right at the beginning. Joining the motorway requires good judgement of speed to match the vehicles already on there. Too slow and you can head into danger very quickly. Signalling early and spotting a potential gap are skills that transfer to other situations so motorway training can improve the general standard of driving as a whole. The main difference in traffic is the number of heavy goods vehicles on there moving at speed. This can be terrifying for the nervous driver with no experience. Once on there things start to settle down with lane changing being the main skill being practiced. Many new drivers may have very limited experience of this depending on where they live. I find the instinctive thing they do before changing lanes is to slow down which is entirely the wrong thing to do. An hour on the motorway and the problem is cleared up producing an altogether better quality driver. Leaving the motorway and the drive onto smaller roads brings into play the skill of speed control. After doing 70mph trying to do 30mph can be a bit painful. Again we are helping to produce a more aware and skilled driver by coaching learners in how to deal with this. I think that learners will be in a much stronger position to pass the L test first time with the confidence they will have from being on a motorway.
For a lot of us the motorway drive is a yearly event when we go on holiday. How much better would the traffic flow if all drivers got professional tuition before passing the test? It may help with those phantom traffic jams we all know and love. I personally can't wait to get out there with my learners. It will add interest to my working day and add some variation to my teaching. Happy motoring to you all and hope your roof sign doesn't blow off at high speed. Ha.