Learner drivers will be allowed on motorways from next year as long as they are with an approved driving instructor in a dual control car.
The Government said the move will provide a broader range of real life experiences and better prepare learners for independent driving when they pass their test, but campaigners called for compulsory post-test motorway training instead.
Driving on the motorway is not part of the test and is optional for learner drivers who may wish to gain more experience on the country's fatest roads.
The move aims to better prepare learners for independent driving
Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: ‘Younger drivers are up to seven times more likely to be killed or seriously injured compared with drivers over 25 and lack of experience is an important factor.
‘Allowing learners to drive on motorways in a supportive environment will help them develop a practical understanding of how to use motorways safely before driving independently.’
The RAC welcomed the move, which followed a Government consultation. It said motorists it had surveyed were overwhelmingly supportive of the change.
Road safety spokesman Pete Williams said: ‘While motorways are statistically our safest roads, it can be daunting using them for the first time after passing the driving test. Giving learners the option to gain valuable experience on our fastest and busiest roads should further improve safety and enhance the confidence of new drivers.'
However, Jason Wakeford, director of campaigns for road safety charity Brake, said: ‘Rather than allowing learner drivers on the motorway, there should instead be a requirement for all newly-qualified drivers to receive mandatory lessons, including on the motorway, once they've passed their test.
‘There needs to be much wider reform to the learning to drive system, including a minimum learning period and restrictions for newly-qualified drivers, such as a late night curfew.’
He added: ‘Young drivers are involved in a high proportion of crashes that kill and seriously injure because of inexperience and the tendency of many to take risks. Improved training before and after getting a licence is essential to improving road safety.’