Are new drivers allowed on the motorway?

Written by Zego

Published on

As a new driver, the thought of heading out on the motorway for the first time can be a bit daunting. You might even be wondering if you're allowed to drive on these high-speed roads at all.

The good news is, if you have passed your test and hold a full UK licence, you're legally allowed to drive on the motorway.

But before you do, there are some key things to know. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the rules, tips and potential challenges, so you can drive safely and confidently on the UK’s motorways.

Are new drivers allowed on the motorway?

Can learner drivers go on the motorway?

In 2018, the law changed to allow learner drivers in England, Scotland and Wales to take motorway lessons. However, this comes with some strict conditions attached.

For instance, learners must be accompanied by an approved driving instructor in a car fitted with dual controls, and L plates must be clearly displayed on the front and rear of the vehicle. It's important to note that motorway lessons are entirely voluntary, and it's up to the instructor to decide when a learner is ready to take on this challenge.

The aim of allowing learners on motorways is to help them gain valuable experience and confidence on these roads before having to face them alone. However, it's not a mandatory part of the learning process, and you won't be tested on motorway driving in your practical exam.

Tips for new drivers on the motorway

Once you’ve passed your test, you’re legally allowed to drive on the motorway. But, this type of driving requires a few additional skills and knowledge compared to driving on other roads.

Here are our top tips for novice drivers:

  • Consider taking an extra motorway driving course (like Pass Plus) after you've got your licence — it’ll help you build confidence in tackling these high-speed roads
  • Bring an experienced driver along for reassurance and guidance on your first few motorway trips
  • Stick to the left-hand lane unless you're overtaking slower traffic, and always check your mirrors and blind spots before changing lanes
  • When joining the motorway, use the slip road to match your speed to the traffic flow, while always sticking to the 70mph limit
  • On longer motorway journeys, take regular breaks at service stations to help you stay alert
  • Be sure to plan your route and motorway exits in advance, so you're not caught off guard
  • Don't feel pressured to drive faster than you're comfortable with, even if other vehicles are speeding past you

What makes motorways challenging?

Motorways have some unique features and rules that can take a bit of getting used to, especially for new drivers.

These include higher speed limits of 70mph, multiple lanes with traffic passing on either side, and joining or leaving via slip roads rather than roundabouts or intersections. There are also some specific road signs, markings and signals used on motorways that you might not be familiar with.

The sheer volume and speed of traffic on motorways can be overwhelming at first, and you'll need to be prepared to deal with bigger vehicles like lorries and coaches. The monotonous nature of long motorway stretches can also make it easier to lose concentration or start feeling tired behind the wheel.

Potential motorway hazards to watch for

As a new driver, you'll need to be extra vigilant when driving on motorways. Some of the key hazards to watch out for include:

  • Sudden changes in traffic speed, with vehicles braking quickly if there's an obstruction ahead
  • Other vehicles merging onto the motorway from slip roads, particularly if they're travelling much slower than the main flow
  • Debris on the road surface like tyre fragments or items fallen from vehicles, which can be dangerous to hit at high speeds
  • Motorway breakdowns, crashes or emergency vehicles stopped on the hard shoulder
  • Reduced visibility or grip in wet, foggy or icy weather conditions
  • Unpredictable or aggressive behaviour from other motorway users, like tailgating or dangerous overtaking
  • The risk of getting distracted or drowsy on long motorway journeys, especially if driving at night

What to do in a motorway breakdown

Even a well-maintained car can break down, so it's important to know what to do if this happens to you on a motorway.

If your vehicle develops a problem, put your hazard warning lights on and try to pull over safely to the hard shoulder or into a dedicated emergency refuge area (ERA).

Once you've stopped, exit the vehicle from the left-hand side if possible and wait well behind the safety barrier, away from moving traffic. Call for assistance using the nearest emergency phone, or dial 999 from your mobile. Never attempt to make repairs yourself on the hard shoulder — it's simply too dangerous.

If you can't make it off the main carriageway, put your hazards on, stay in the vehicle with your seatbelt fastened, and contact emergency services immediately.

Rules new drivers need to know

For the first two years after passing your test, you'll be subject to some extra restrictions as a new driver.

If you receive six or more penalty points on your licence during this probationary period, your licence will be revoked completely. This would mean having to apply for a new provisional licence and retaking both your theory and practical tests from the beginning in order to regain a full licence.

To avoid this happening, you'll need to be extra careful to follow all the rules of the road, including on motorways. Offences like speeding, using a mobile phone while driving, or not wearing a seatbelt can quickly tot up penalty points for new drivers.

Insurance for new drivers

Did you know we offer insurance specifically for new drivers? It uses smart technology to reward you with lower prices when you drive well.

Our comprehensive cover gives you all the protection you need as a new driver. And, instead of paying expensive prices based on average data, the price you pay is based on how you drive.

That means, by driving safely, you could pay a lot less a lot sooner than you would with a standard policy. Especially while you build your driving history and no claims discount.

The bottom line

Driving on the motorway for the first time is a major milestone for any new driver. While it's natural to feel nervous, rest assured that as long as you've passed your test, you're allowed to use these roads. The key is to build up your confidence gradually, starting with some extra tuition or an experienced co-driver if needed.

By following our tips on motorway driving, staying alert to potential hazards, and knowing how to handle a breakdown, you'll soon be taking to these fast roads like a pro. And, don’t forget to get a quote for our flexible, affordable new driver insurance.

Frequently asked questions

Can new drivers carry passengers on motorways?

Yes, once you've passed your test, you're legally allowed to carry passengers on any type of road, including motorways. However, it's a good idea to avoid giving lifts to your friends on motorways until you've built up more experience and confidence driving independently.

Do new drivers need to take a motorway driving course?

No, motorway driving courses like Pass Plus are entirely optional and aren’t a legal requirement. However, many new drivers find them a helpful way to build skills and confidence, and some insurance providers may offer discounts for completing this extra training (go to to learn more).

Are there any speed restrictions for new drivers on motorways?

No, the same national speed limit of 70mph applies to all motorway drivers, regardless of experience level. However, new drivers should only drive at a speed they feel comfortable with and avoid feeling pressured to go faster just because other traffic is.

Can newly qualified drivers drive at night?

Newly qualified drivers can drive at night without legal restrictions. It’s advisable to gain daytime driving experience first due to challenges like reduced visibility.

Do newly qualified drivers need to display P plates?

Displaying P plates is optional. They signal to other drivers that you are newly qualified, which can encourage more considerate driving behavior.

Can newly qualified drivers have passengers?

Newly qualified drivers can carry passengers without restrictions. Initially limiting the number of passengers can help reduce distractions while gaining confidence.

What are the safest cars for new drivers?

The safest cars for new drivers in 2024 are:

  • Volkswagen Polo: Solid build, automatic emergency braking.
  • Toyota Yaris: High safety ratings, pre-collision systems.
  • Nissan Micra: Intelligent emergency braking, lane departure warning.
  • Ford Fiesta: Electronic stability control, multiple airbags.