In the last couple of weeks we have looked at what needs to be considered when choosing the right driving instructor, as well as driving instructors’ top tips for learning to drive. This week, we focus on the legal bits – ages, tests and what you need to know about how, and when, to get your licence.
How old can I be to drive?
In the UK, you must be aged 17 or over before you can take your driving test and drive in public. However, you can apply for a provisional driving licence to drive a car, moped or motorbike from the age of 15 years and 9 months, provided you can read a number plate from 20 metres away. However, it is not normally legal to drive until you are 17. The exception to this is in cases where a person receives the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP); in this case, they can learn to drive at 16.
Knowing the rules
In order to learn to drive, you must:
- Have a provisional licence – this takes about a week to be processed if applied for online.
- Be supervised when you are learning to drive by a driving instructor or another adult who is aged over 21, and has had their full driving licence for more than 3 years.
- Display L plates.
You can only drive on the motorway if you are with a qualified instructor and driving a vehicle fitted with dual controls.
In Scotland, England and Wales, the speed limits for learners are the same as the speed limits for all other equivalent road users. However, in Northern Ireland, the speed limit is capped at 45 miles per hour for learners.
Your instructor must be qualified or training. Qualified driving instructors must display their green DVSA (driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) badge, while trainees must display their pink one.
There isn’t a maximum or minimum number of driving lessons that a learner must have before they can pass their test – your instructor will let you know when they think you are ready.
You can practice with friends or family but, in addition to the rules above, the same rules apply to the person sitting next to you as if they were driving. That is, the person you are practising with can’t use their mobile phone, they must pay full attention to the road, and they can’t be under the influence of alcohol. You also need to make sure that you, or the person with whom you are driving and who owns the vehicle, has the appropriate insurance.
L and D plates
L plates (in England, N Ireland and Scotland) and D plates (in Wales) let others know that you are not a qualified driver. You must use these until you pass your test. Once you have passed, if you like, you can use P plates, which tell other road users that you are a newly qualified driver.