Though driving law and the Highway Code apply equally to all drivers in the UK, there are a lot of EXTRA rules and regulations that apply specially to learners – and to their supervisors. It is essential that you understand the basic laws around learning to drive – and find out whether you meet all of the requirements to become a learner driver – BEFORE you start making any preparations to get lessons, pay for any insurance (or even a car!) etc. This article goes through the basic ‘checklist’ of the main laws that will decide whether you can begin your driving journey yet, and the conditions you must satisfy.
Firstly, in order to embark on your path as a learner (i.e. as driver without a full driving license) and get behind the wheel of a car YOU MUST:
- Be 17 years old or above
- Possess a valid provisional driving licence
- Hold sufficient car insurance
- Ensure that you will be supervised at all time whilst practising driving. This must be by someone aged 21 or over, and who has held a valid driving licence for a minimum of 3 years
- Meet the minimum eyesight standards: drivers must be able to read a car number plate, manufactured after 1 September 2001, from 20 metres away in good visibility
- Ensure visible ‘L’ plates (‘D’ plates in Wales) are affixed securely onto the front and rear of your vehicle
Secondly, the ACCOMPANYING DRIVER (the person supervising you) must:
- Be at least 21 years of age
- Hold a currently valid full UK driving licence
- Have held their (valid) licence for at least 3 years
- Meet the minimum eyesight standards: supervisors must also be able to read a car number plate from 20 metres away in good visibility
- Not be receiving any payment for supervising the learner, UNLESS they are an official registered instructor
- Follow all standard motoring laws applicable to drivers, even whilst supervising: for example by not drink driving, using a mobile phone etc., even when they are only in the passenger seat
According to UK road law, the qualified driver supervising is technically considered to be “in control of the vehicle”. This is why they must follow all of the rules and regulations that would apply to anyone driving a car, the whole time they are in the vehicle.
NB. There may be more than one additional person in the car, and anyone may travel in the rear passenger seats during instructional sessions. So long as one supervising driver is in the front passenger seat alongside the learner, you may drive with as many passengers as you can (legally) can fit into the particular vehicle.
Please note that, contrary to what you may read elsewhere online, learner drivers may now practise driving on the motorway with a driving instructor during their normal lessons. In June 2018 the rules in the UK changed, allowing this for the first time.
This highlights the importance of always having up to date information – and checking that any advice receive is still valid. We will be publishing many up to date guides, articles and other resources for new drivers on this blog.
Though our focus will often be on learner drivers, we will also be publishing a more comprehensive guide for regulations around supervising drivers – which will be well worth a look out whether you are the supervisor or the learner – so keep a look out for this.