Guide to UK Driving Licences
To drive a car on a public road in the UK a driver must hold a valid driving licence, this is a legal requirement. A driving licence validates that the driver has shown a sufficient level of driving competence by passing a driving test and is physically able to operate a car. This guide to driving licences provides information on driving licences in the UK including, how to apply for a driving licence and what type of vehicles certain licences qualify people to drive.
Why do we need driving licences?
The main reason is for road safety. Firstly drivers need to prove that they are medically able to operate a car, and that they can drive safely by passing a driving test. Driving licences also help the police to enforce the law and are widely accepted as proof of identification.
What type of licences are there?
For every type of vehicle a suitable driving licence is required to drive it. So whether it’s a car, motorcycle or a commercial vehicle a valid driving licence is needed. At a high level, there are two types of driving licences:
Provisional – Provisional driving licences are issued to those learning to drive. Applications for provisional licences are made to the DVLA by sending a D1 form to the address supplied.
Full – Full driving licences are issued by the DVLA to those who have successfully passed their theory and practical driving assessments.
When can I apply for a driving licence?
All drivers need to be a minimum of 17 years old to start learning to drive a car and 16 years old for mopeds. For certain types of vehicles drivers will need to be older to apply for a licence, for example, to drive a lorry or a bus the minimum age required is 21.
Photocard licences replaced paper driving licences in 1998 and they must be replaced every 10 years. The DVLA does not notify drivers of the expiration date so it is worth checking as not doing so can incur a fine of up to £1,000.
Standard driving licences are valid until the driver reaches 70 years old, from that point onwards the licence needs to be renewed every three years. For commercial vehicles the rules are stricter with a renewal required every 5 years and when the driver reaches 45 years old.
How to renew
There is a £20 fee for each renewal and there are three ways to apply for a licence:
- Online. If the applicant has a new digital passport an application for a driving licence can be made online.
- By post. Alternatively, anyone can obtain a form from most Post Offices, or order one from the DVLA website.
- In person at selected Post Offices. This currently costs an extra £4.50 on top of the standard fee.
Learning to drive and qualifying for a full licence
Once a provisional driving licence has come through the new licence holder can start learning how to drive with either an instructor or privately. To receive a full driving licence driver must pass a practical and theory test. The practical test is to evaluate whether drivers can drive safely in different road and traffic conditions and can understand the Highway Code. The theory test (usually taken before the practical test but can be taken at anytime) is split into two sections:
- Multiple Choice Questions – 50 questions with a choice of answers.
- Hazard Perception Test – Video clips of everyday driving scenarios where you must identify potential hazards.
Both of these assessments need to be successfully passed to pass the theory test.
Driving Licence Categories
Once you have passed your theory and practical driving tests then your full driving licence will be sent you by the DVLA. You will receive a photo card licence and paper counterpart version of the licence. On the back of your photo card licence there will be categories which show which type of vehicles you are able to drive, below is a list of the categories:
A1 - Light motorcycles with an engine size of up to 125cc and a power of no more than 11kw (14.6 horsepower)
A - Motorcycles (with or without a sidecar) up to 25kw or 33 horsepower and a power-to-weight ratio of up to 0.16kw/kg
B1 - Motor tricycles and quadricycles weighing up to 550kg when unladen (not loaded)
B - Motor cars or light vans with up to eight passenger seats and weighing up to 3500kg (allowed to tow a trailer weighing up to 750kg)
C1 - Vehicles weighing between 3500kg and 7500kg (allowed to tow a trailer weighing up to 750kg)
C - Vehicles weighing over 3500kg and with a trailer of up to 750kg
D1 - Small passenger-carrying vehicles with nine to 16 passenger seats and a trailer weighing up to 750kg
D - Any bus with more than eight passenger seats and a trailer weighing up to 750kg
B + E - Motor cars or light vans with up to eight passenger seats, with a trailer of more than 750kg
C1 + E - Vehicles over 3500kg and a trailer of more than 750kg
C + E - Vehicles over 3500kg and a trailer of more than 750kg
D1 + E - Small passenger-carrying vehicles with nine to 16 passenger seats with a trailer of more than 750kg
D + E - Any bus with more than eight passenger seats and a trailer of more than 750kg
f - Agricultural tractors
g – Roadrollers
h – Tracked vehicles
k – Pedestrian-controlled vehicles (those powered by a person)
p - Mopeds
For more information regarding driving licences please visit https://www.gov.uk/browse/driving/driving-licences.
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