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To drive legally in the UK, a driver must be the minimum age of 17 years, hold the appropriate driving licence for the vehicle and meet the legal eyesight standards.
Visitors of 17 years and older, with a valid permit issued elsewhere in the world, may drive in the UK for up to 12 months. After 12 months, some foreign licences remain valid for use in the UK for a limited period; some may be exchanged for a UK licence; some cease to be valid and a full driving test must be taken, for a British licence to be issued.
The minimum age for driving a car is 17 years. For mopeds it is 16 and for motorcycles, depending on the power of the bike, it may be from 17 to 21 years.
There are two types of licence:
Provisional licences are for drivers who:
There are certain restrictions for holders of a provisional licence, both for car and motorcycle drivers:
A full licence is issued to a driver that has passed a driving test in the UK, within the previous two years.
In order to qualify for a driving licence for a vehicle or motorbike, candidates must pass both a theoretical and practical test.
Enrolment at a driving school is not mandatory, although learner drivers must be accompanied by a driver aged at least 21, and with a minimum of three years' driving experience.
Learner plates 'L' plates ('D' plates in Wales) must be fixed to the front and back of the car.
Driving instructors must be registered and approved by the Driving Standards Agency before they can charge a fee for lessons.
Third party insurance is obligatory in the UK. In addition to the minimum insurance requirements, all vehicles must be registered with the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA), have a valid tax disc and an MOT test certificate, if applicable, before being taken on the road.
A Valid MOT test certificate is required on any vehicle that is 3 or more years old.
The DVLA must be informed of any medical condition that may affect a person's ability to drive. To check if a medical condition must be reported to the DVLA: Click here
Before learning to drive a motor car, moped or motorcycle, the learner must have a provisional driving licence. This can be applied for in person by completing a D1 form at a post office, and sending it to the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA) or by completing the form online.
A provisional driving licence can be applied for up to three months before the applicant's 17th birthday.
There is a fee for both the theory and practical test.
Once the provisional driving licence has been received, the learner driver may take their theory test. The theory test must be successfully passed before the practical test can be booked. The theory exam includes multiple choice questions and a hazard perception test. To prepare for the test, candidates need to study the Highway Code.
Facilities are available for people whose first language is not English, either by voiceover or a translator. Other options are available for people with specific needs, for example reading or hearing difficulties.
The test starts with an eyesight check, then a test of knowledge of The Highway Code and then a test to check the ability to drive safely. If the eyesight test is failed, the exam may not be continued. If the eyesight check is passed, the rest of the exam continues and lasts approximately 40 minutes.
The candidate needs to take the following to the practical test:
The examiner notifies the candidate immediately after the test if they have passed or failed. If they have passed, they can choose to have their driving licence issued automatically. The examiner scans the provisional driving licence, and sends the information through electronically to the DVLA. A pass certificate is given as proof, until the new driving licence is sent by the DVLA (usually within four weeks).
If the candidate fails the test, the examiner provides some feedback. Another test may be taken, no sooner than ten working days, after the previous test.
Since October 2010, the practical driving test includes a section on independent driving, which involves driving following directions and traffic signs for approximately ten minutes. This part of the exam is to test a person's ability to make independent decisions when driving.
Mainly for new drivers, the Pass Plus scheme is a six-part course, which allows drivers to qualify for a car insurance discount. The course must be completed with an Approved Driving Instructor; it prepares a driver for all driving conditions.
The driving licence is issued by the DVLA in England, Wales and Scotland. In Northern Ireland driving licences are issued by the Driver and Vehicle Agency.
A driving licence is issued in two parts:
In the event of a name or address change, the driving licence must be updated. This can be done online, or by post. The new licence is issued free of charge, unless the photograph needs renewing.
Photographs on driving licence must be renewed every ten years, either by post or at selected post offices. In most cases, a renewal reminder is sent by post to the licence holder.
Driving licences are valid until the holder is 70 years old. The DVLA sends a renewal form approximately 90 days before the 70th birthday. Once a licence has been renewed, it is valid for a further three years.
A licence is revoked, if a new driver accumulates six penalty points, within two years of passing their first driving test.
Mopeds and scooters drivers must be at least 16 years old; some other categories of motorbike may only be driven from age 17 and some from age 18.
To learn to drive a two-wheeler, first apply for a provisional driving licence and complete a compulsory basic training (CBT) course in order to validate it. L-plates must be attached to the bike during the learning period.
A theory and practical test must be passed to ride a moped or motorbike.
In the case of a lost, stolen or damaged licence, a replacement can be applied for by telephone, by post or online. If the licence is lost or stolen, the police should be informed.
Penalty point endorsements are added to a licence when a driver is convicted of committing certain driving offences. A licence holder can apply to the DVLA to have the endorsements removed for a small charge.
Drivers who have been disqualified, should receive a reminder from the DVLA eight weeks before the end of the disqualification period, to apply for a new licence. If a reminder is not sent, a D1 form should be filled in and sent to the DVLA, as with all new licences.