M25 motorway interchange at dusk, the street lights are on and cars are travelling along the 4 layer elevated major road junction

Essential tips for learner drivers for their first motorway lesson

5 minute read

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Before you rev up your engine and set your sights on the motorway, there's a crucial rule for learner drivers to remember - motorway driving is a choice, not a must, and it's only allowed with a qualified driving instructor along for the ride.

So, make sure you've got the right company and feel comfortable before you take on those high-speed lanes. To help first-time motorway drivers, we’ve created a guide on what you can expect!

  • Taking motorway lessons isn’t compulsory for learner drivers.
  • If you accidentally drive on the motorway during your test, it’s an automatic fail!
  • The Pass Plus test is there if you’d like some practice driving on motorways once you’ve passed your test.

Do a little preparation, have a look at the Highway Code section on motorways

When can you drive on motorways?  

Unfortunately, you can't hit the motorway with mum and dad just yet, so you'll need to take other roads until you've passed your test. However, you can go on motorways with an approved driving instructor, as Lynne Barrie, President of the Approved Driving Instructors National Joint Council, or ADINJC (@ADINJChq), explains:

‘Learners can only be driving on motorways with dual controls and approved driving instructors,’ says Lynne. ‘They can’t drive on motorways early in the learning process, only when they’re nearer to taking the test – and they can’t drive on a motorway during the test.’

If caught on the motorway without a qualified driving instructor by your side, you could get a fine of up to £300 and three points on your license! And of course, you need to make sure you're insured before you drive anywhere – motorway or country road. Check out our guide on learner driver insurance for more info. 


What should you expect in a motorway driving lesson?

If you’re feeling up for it, you can simply ask your driving instructor if they’re happy to do a motorway lesson with you, and they’ll let you know if you’re ready. Motorway lessons are key to getting comfortable with joining and exiting motorways, changing lanes at the right time and handling the flow of traffic.

It's completely normal to feel nervous about driving on a motorway, but motorways are statistically the safest roads we have, and the chance to learn under supervision can really help learners. So, take a deep breath and relax – motorways are the smoothest, safest stretches you'll drive on.


Why aren’t motorway lessons compulsory?

Driving on motorways can be daunting for many drivers, even those who passed their driving test, so you might be wondering why it’s not a mandatory part of the test. Well, it’s because of practicality. Places like Cornwall, Dorset, Norfolk, Suffolk, Rutland, and large areas of Scotland and Wales, don’t have any motorways. So, it wouldn’t be reasonable or practical for learner drivers to practice on motorways if they’re a far drive from where they live.


Tips for your first time driving on a motorway

If you’re at all nervous about driving on motorways, you may like to experience it from the passenger’s seat first. Ask your instructor or parent to talk you through what they’re doing and their decision-making process to familiarise yourself with the driving technique and help you feel more comfortable taking control of the pedals on a motorway yourself for the first time. Here are some general tips to make your motorway journey as smooth as possible:

  • Remain calm – it’s important to feel relaxed and prepare ahead so you’re in a good state to drive.
  • Be prepared – re-read the Highway Code so you feel confident driving on the motorway and understand what the different road signs mean.
  • Make sure you trust your instructor – you need to feel as relaxed as possible with the other person in the car. 
  • Don’t get distracted – don't be tempted to play music as this can be distracting – keep your eyes on the road and give it your full attention.

Remember, even though you can’t ride with mum or dad while you’re still a learner, once you’ve passed your test, they can still be super useful to bring along to help you stay calm and know what to expect – they’re likely very familiar with motorway driving and you’ll feel more comfortable with them.


More tips for driving safely on the motorway

Here’s what to do and everything you need to know to help you stay safe when driving on the motorway:

  • Prepare your car for the motorway - Make sure you check your tyre pressure, tread depth, engine oil, lights, brake fluid, and coolant before setting off to reduce the risk of breakdowns. You can read our helpful guide on how to prepare your vehicle for long journeys for extra piece of mind!
  • Understanding motorway slip roads - When joining the motorway on a slip road, accelerate to match the speed of the traffic to your right while looking for a safe gap to merge. When leaving the motorway, prepare by moving to the left-hand lane in plenty of time, following exit signs and signals, and reducing your speed gradually. Keep checking those rear mirrors while you merge and slow down.
  • Maintain safe following distances - The two-second rule should keep you a safe distance from the car in front. When it's wet, rainy or icy, add a four-second gap from the car in front to make sure you have plenty of time to react.
  • Stick to the left lane - When driving on the motorway for the first time, it’s better to avoid the fast lane (on the right) and stay in the left lane for most of your journey. Only move to the middle or right lanes when you’re overtaking before safely returning to the inside lane. And don’t get too frustrated with drivers who seem to be stuck in the middle lane – road rage doesn’t help anyone!
  • Mirror checks - Checking your mirrors is even more important than normal when driving on the motorway. Stay alert, be mindful of your surroundings and look over your shoulder before changing lanes to avoid blind spot accidents. Driving instructors stress this for a reason! You can also buy additional mirrors to help give you a better view and reduce blind spots.
  • Motorway signals - Make sure you’re familiar with motorway signs and signals so you’re aware of any hazards, speed limits and lane closures.
  • Handling breakdowns safely - If your car breaks down, pull over to the hard shoulder, turn on your hazard lights and wait behind safety barriers after calling for help. Check out LV= breakdown cover to make sure you’re covered if something happens!


Extra help for learner drivers on motorways

If you’re still feeling nervous about driving on motorways after you pass your test, you may consider taking the Pass Plus training course to help build your driving skills and confidence on the roads.

These practical sessions cover driving on motorways and can give you the extra bit of help and reassurance you might be looking for.

The Plus Pass course typically costs between £150 - £200 depending on the driving instructor or company you’re using. Some local councils can also offer discounts, you can check if your local council offers this on GOV.UK


Whether you’re an experienced driver or still learning, check out LV= car insurance to make sure you’re covered for any bumps in the road.

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