Learner drivers will be allowed to practise on motorways for the first time under government plans to improve road safety.

Under current rules, drivers are permitted on motorways only after they have passed their test, though there is no mandatory training for the 70mph roads.

The transport minister, Andrew Jones, announced the plans on Friday, which would allow approved instructors to take “competent” trainees on motorways in dual-controlled cars.

The RAC director, Steve Gooding, and Neil Greig, policy director at the IAM RoadSmart charity, backed the proposal.

Gooding said: “The casualty statistics tell us that motorways are our safest roads, but they can feel anything but safe to a newly qualified driver heading down the slip road for the first time to join a fast-moving, often heavy, flow of traffic.

“Many are so intimidated by the motorway environment that they choose instead to use statistically more dangerous roads, so we welcome this move, which will help new drivers get the training they need to use motorways safely.”

Greig said it was a “sensible and measured solution”, adding: “It makes no sense that new drivers learn by trial and, often fatal, error how to use our fastest and most important roads.”

Under the proposals, motorcyclists would take a theory test as part of the compulsory basic training (CBT) course, which allows bikes and mopeds to be ridden unaccompanied. CBT certificates would be revoked if the motorist gets six penalty points.

Jones said: “These changes will equip learners with a wider range of experience and greater skillset which will improve safety levels on our roads.”

Reports had said the government was considering making learner drivers complete 120 hours of training before taking their tests, but the Department for Transport said there were no current plans for such a measure.

A spokeswoman said: “We have commissioned a £2m research programme that will look at ways we can reduce the number of accidents involving new and inexperienced drivers, and this will look at a range of measures.”