The first motorway trip after passing your driving test – it’s become something of a rite of passage. Faced with merging from a slip road into the motorway traffic, you could be forgiven for having a case of the post-test jitters. Some drivers are more confident than others, but few are totally nerveless.
It shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, motorways tend not to feature in driving lessons and aren’t assessed in the driving test.
But it raises an important question: could driving lessons do more to prepare learners for all aspects of driving? In our latest survey, Adrian Flux asked drivers what knowledge they felt their lessons left out. We also tracked the trajectory of their confidence in the months and years after passing, examining how this varied across different age groups.
Here’s what we found.
- 32% of drivers wished that motorway lessons had featured in their driving education
- 31% would have liked mock breakdowns to feature in their lessons
- 30% wanted more training on driving in the dark
- Just 48% of drivers were confident three months after their test
- 54% of drivers said they would consider taking a driving course after passing their test to gain extra experience.
Learner drivers call for more motorway practice
Yes, more motorway practicIe was a top request among the motorists who took our survey. Some 32% of respondents wished that motorway lessons had featured in their driving education. And one in five cited motorway driving as a reason they felt anxious on the roads after passing their test.
Motorway driving is clearly a source of stress for many drivers. This may tie in with common fears about smart motorways, which use features such as a variable speed limit and a hard shoulder that can be used as an additional lane. Though proponents say they help ease traffic flow, detractors claim they lead to additional road deaths. One thing is clear: many drivers don’t like them and in response, the UK government has said they will stop building new ones.
A 2018 law change allowed learning drivers on the motorway if accompanied by an approved driving instructor, theoretically opening the door to lessons that include a motorway component. However, motorway lessons are not mandatory – and, in practice, they remain rare. A further obstacle is the fact that some counties – including Norfolk, Suffolk and almost all of Wales – do not have ready access to motorways, making practice sessions somewhat impractical.
Looking for tips on motorway driving? Check out our guide to driving on motorways.
Communication breakdown: what to do when things go wrong
Our survey results also revealed a perception, from many motorists, that lessons do not do enough to prepare drivers for breakdowns. Some 31% said they would have liked mock breakdowns to feature in their lessons, while 32% lamented the lack of guidance on how to change a tyre. Similarly, 22% of drivers wanted to better understand dashboard lights and what they mean.
These findings suggest that factors other than the driving itself could still be worthwhile inclusions in a course of driving lessons. Potentially, these could be integrated in similar fashion to the ‘Show me, tell me’ element of the practical driving test. Beyond boosting driving confidence, instruction in these areas would have real, measurable benefits for safety on the road.
For example, drivers should know not to change a tyre at the side of the road. It also goes without saying that interpreting dashboard warning lights such as the brake warning, airbag warning and engine management light – and responding correctly – is an important means of avoiding breakdowns and staying safe on the road.
Fuel for thought: petrol station etiquette
Continuing the theme of the more practical aspects of motoring being missed, 18% of drivers said that they wished they had received training on petrol station etiquette – for example, giving enough space for other vehicles. In addition, 20% of drivers wanted lessons to include putting fuel in the tank.
Our survey showed that learning to drive with family or friends, as a supplement to or replacement for driving lessons, seemed to offset anxiety at the pump. 15% of this group were unsure of petrol station etiquette compared to 18% of all drivers. For uncertainty on how to fill up their car with petrol, the results are similar: 20% for all drivers and 19% for those who learned with family or friends.
Moonlit miles: driving in the dark
According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA), 40% of collisions happen in the hours of darkness. Considering that there is much less traffic at night, this figure is all the more alarming – driving at night is significantly more dangerous than in the day.
Despite this increased risk, driving lessons do not typically include nighttime sessions. This absence was felt by our respondents, with 30% drawing attention to their lessons’ lack of training on driving in the dark.
Post driving-test jitters
Looking at the wider picture of drivers’ post-test assertiveness, our survey identified a gradual increase in confidence over time. Just 19% of drivers said they felt fully confident within the first month after passing their test, with 29% achieving confidence between one and three months later. This means that more than half of the drivers we surveyed still weren’t confident on the roads three months after getting their licence.
Age influenced these figures to some extent. Older drivers were generally less confident than younger ones, aligning with the common perception that younger people drive more recklessly. For example, 21.4% of 18- to 24-year-olds felt confident within the first month after passing their test – compared to 17.4% of 41- to 54-year-olds.
However, the overall pattern is similar regardless of age group. The biggest rise in confidence happens between the first and third months after the test, with 83% of drivers feeling comfortable on the road by a year and more than 90% from two years onwards.
Our guide to being a confident driver identifies common anxieties and provides practical ways to address them.
Building confidence with Pass Plus Training
So, how can drivers gain more confidence on the road? A logical place to start would be for drivers to tackle any knowledge gaps from topics not covered in their lessons. You could go about this in many ways – for example, building your knowledge online or having more practice sessions with friends and family. Another effective means of boosting confidence is by undertaking further training in the form of a Pass Plus course.
Pass Plus courses, delivered by Pass Plus-registered approved driving instructors (ADIs), are widely available across the United Kingdom. These courses cover a wide range of topics, including many of the ones noted in our survey responses:
- Driving in town
- Driving on motorways
- Driving on dual carriageways
- Driving on different road types, eg country lanes
- Driving at night
- Driving in bad weather
According to our results, there is a high demand for Pass Plus training. Over half of drivers (54%) said they would consider an additional driving course to gain more experience, while 40% would consider one to ease anxieties when driving. Additionally, 7% would consider additional training to reduce their insurance premium.
Taking a Pass Plus course may help reduce insurance premiums, as some insurers offer a discount for those who have completed this extra level of training. They can also boost confidence behind the wheel and improve drivers’ safety skills, both of which are worthwhile benefits in themselves. Fewer accidents on the road is clearly a positive: both for the drivers who took the additional training and those sharing the road with them. In the long run, making fewer claims on your insurance – or none at all – can result in a lower premium, too.
Adrian Flux’s young driver insurance rewards safe driving
When you’re a young driver, the joy of passing your test is too often cut short by the pressing need to take out insurance. Adrian Flux can help. With our FluxScore black box insurance, you get rewarded for safe driving and can reduce your premium by up to 60%.
Here are some more benefits of our young driver insurance:
- Affordable quotes. With 50 years of experience in the industry, we have established strong relationships with our panel of insurers. This enables us to frequently surpass quotes from other insurance brokers.
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- Policies made for you. Our partnerships with leading and specialised insurers allow us to provide insurance deals that are unavailable online. Even if you already have a quote, let us know – we always strive to offer better rates.
- Modified car insurance. Our experience tells us that if you’re considering modifying your car, you’re likely to take good care of it. As specialists in insuring modified vehicles, we can provide excellent prices for young owners of modified cars.