Finbar King, 17, has become the first learner to legally drive on a British motorway.
The teenager from St Albans entered the M25 during a driving lesson with an instructor on Monday at 00:01, which is the exact time the law changed to allow provisional licence holders to motor along the nation’s fastest-moving routes.
Road Safety Minister, Jesse Norman, said the decision to allow learners onto motorways will ‘help more young drivers gain skills and experience they need to drive safely’ on the roads.
First learner on the motorway: Finbar King, 17, became the first provisional licence holder to legally take a lesson on the motorway when he entered the M25 moments after midnight on Monday 4 June
As of today (Monday 4 June), learners will be given access to motorways across England, Scotland and Wales as part of a law update.
The new rule – first announced in August last year – will allow provisional licence holders to enter the multi-lane roads when accompanied by an approved instructor and driving a car fitted with dual controls and L plates.
Any motorway lessons will be voluntary and only take place when an instructor believes the individual has the right skills and experience to drive in a high-speed environment.
Finbar King, son of AA President Edmund King, hit the motorway with AA instructor Mark Harrison.
He told Mail Online that he enjoyed the lesson but was still concerned by some elements of driving on such busy roads.
Finbar King (left), an A-Level student from St Albans, took the opportunity to enter the M25 under the watchful eye of instructor Mark Harrison (right) within a minute of the law allowing learners to legally have lessons on motorways
The teenager drove along smart motorway sections of the M25 in the Ford Fiesta AA Driving School car fitted with dual controls. Right: Finbar King pictured with his father, AA President, Edmund King
‘I actually quite enjoyed it and felt safe having Mark instructing me,’ he said.
‘It is different due to more lanes of traffic and indeed there were lots of lorries.
‘The main worry is the lack of lay-bys when there is no hard-shoulder on the ‘smart motorways’ in case you break down. I would like to see more laybys.
‘I also know that some left-hand drive lorries can sometimes just pull out as they have a blind spot so I try to give them more room.’
When asked if he thought the law change was a good idea, the 17-year-old A-Level student added: ‘Yes, I do, as it seems silly that you could pass your test and then five minutes later drive on a motorway alone without ever having been taught to do it safely.’
Top 10 reasons drivers are nervous on motorways
1. Behaviour of other drivers (e.g. tailgating, speeding etc)
2. Adverse weather conditions
3. Large trucks and lorries
4. Poor road condition (e.g. potholes, road markings)
5. Lack of a hard shoulder on smart motorways
6. Possibility of breaking down
7. Driving at night
8. Joining and leaving the motorway
9. Travelling at high speeds
10. Changing lane
Source: AA Populus Survey of 20,435 drivers
Despite the new rule, there are still no plans to introduce a motorway-driving segment to the driving test, which was changed last December.
Jesse Norman said the shift to allow learners onto motorways was part of a bid to improve road safety and reduce the number of road deaths involving young people.
‘Allowing learner drivers to have motorway lessons with a qualified road safety expert will help more young drivers to gain the skills and experience they need to drive safely on motorways,’ he said.
Statistics show that newly-qualified drivers are most vulnerable in the first six months after passing their driving test and road collisions are the second biggest killer of young people in the country.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) believes this can be attributed to the number of newly-qualified motorists choosing to drive on ‘challenging’ rural roads with blind bends, dips and distractions because they fear entering a motorway having not used them during driving lessons.
In 2015, 80 per cent of all young driver deaths happened on rural roads, stats show.
According to new research by the AA, eight per cent of drivers surveyed said they avoided motorways for at least six months after passing their test.
Allowing learner drivers to have motorway lessons with a qualified road safety expert will help more young drivers to gain the skills and experience they need to drive safely on motorways
Jesse Norman, Road Safety Minister
Just 25 per cent of the 20,435 motorists who answered the poll said they felt adequately prepared for motorway driving after their test.
But more than a quarter (27 per cent) said they felt scared when they did venture onto a motorway for the first time with women (46 per cent) more than twice as likely as men (18 per cent) to say this.
The changes to allow learners to practise on motorways have been supported by the AA Charitable Trust.
It has set aside £20,000 to fund ‘Drive Motorway’ courses aimed at newly-qualified motorists who missed out on the opportunity to drive on the nation’s fast roads before sitting their test.
The courses will be given by AA Driving School instructors and last two hours.
Statistics show that many newly qualified drivers haven’t felt comfortable entering motorways for the first time after passing their test having had no previous experience of using the fast-paced roads
Edmund King, director of the trust, said: ‘We welcome these changes to allow learner drivers onto motorways under the guidance of a fully-qualified driving instructor.
‘Collision statistics confirm that young drivers are drastically over-represented in crashes so this change, which will help broaden the opportunities they have while learning, is very positive.
‘It’s clear from our research that motorway driving has been a significant hurdle for many drivers to overcome after their test and that being allowed on these roads whilst learning is welcomed by the majority of drivers.
‘However, there will be many qualified drivers out there at the moment who have perhaps recently passed their test and have just missed out on this opportunity.
‘This is why the AA Trust has set aside significant levels of funding for free motorway training and we would encourage any newly-qualified driver to take up the training.
‘It is ironic that so many drivers avoid motorways after passing their test when, statistically, they are our safest roads.’
He added that the changes present a ‘great opportunity’ to educate the next generation of drivers about avoiding poor habits, such as middle-lane hogging, tailgating and undertaking.
All three are classed as ‘careless driving’, which can result in guilty motorists being issued with a fixed penalty notice of at least three points and a fine of £100 – though recent stats have suggested that this is going widely unpunished.
To apply for a free AA Drive Motorway course, available from June 7, drivers need to visit the AA Driving School Facebook page and click ‘send message’.
The AA Charitable Trust has set aside £20,000 to fund Drive Motorway courses for new drivers who passed their test recently
You will need to include your name, contact details, postcode, year you passed test, preferred time/date of lesson and vehicle transmission type (manual/ automatic).
Speaking ahead of the law change, DVSA Chief Driving Examiner, Mark Winn, said: ‘DVSA’s priority is to help you through a lifetime of safe driving.
‘Allowing learner drivers to have motorway lessons was supported by 80 per cent of people who gave their feedback on this change, with the public recognising the importance of developing these skills in a controlled environment.
‘I’m delighted that a new generation of drivers can now drive on the motorway to gain valuable experience, including overtaking safely and lane discipline.’
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