Driving licence in the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the minimum driving age for a car or van is 17 while a moped or restricted-power motorcycle can be ridden at 16. Anyone receiving Disability Living Allowance at the higher rate may drive a car or van from the age of 16. Until a United Kingdom driving test (which consists of three sections: theory and a hazard perception test followed by a supervised driving examination) has been passed a driver may hold only a provisional licence and be subject to certain conditions.

The conditions attached to provisional licences of a particular category of vehicle are:

    L-plates or (in Wales only) D plates (Welsh: Dysgwr) must be conspicuously displayed on the front and rear of the vehicle.
    Learner drivers of a particular category and transmission type of vehicle must be accompanied by somebody aged at least 21 who has held a full driving licence for that category and transmission type for at least three years, except in the case of solo motorcycles and vehicles of certain categories designed solely for one person.
    No trailer may be towed, except when driving a tractor or where a full licence gives provisional entitlement to drive a car with trailer, large goods vehicle with trailer or bus with trailer.
    Motorcycle riders must not carry any pillion passenger.
    Bus drivers must not carry any passenger except a person giving or receiving instruction.
    Motorways must not be used by holders of car and motorcycle provisional licences, excluding B+E learner drivers.

In Northern Ireland, learner drivers are limited to a speed of 45 mph (72 km/h), and drivers who have passed their test within the previous year must display "R" plates (restricted) and are also limited to a speed of 45 mph (72 km/h) until the expiry of the restricted period. "R" plates are similar in style to "L" plates, with a thick-set dark orange R displayed on a white background.

After passing a driving test, the provisional licence may be surrendered within two years in exchange for a full UK licence for the relevant kind of vehicle. Full car licences allow use of mopeds and motorcycles provided a CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) course is completed (there is no requirement to have a CBT in Northern Ireland). There are no restrictions on newly passed drivers (unlike some other countries), but if a newly qualified driver is given six penalty points within two years of passing, the licence is automatically cancelled and the driver must pass the full test again. The six points remains on the new licence until their designated expiry time. It is optional to display newly passed green on white 'P' (for Probationer) plates on the vehicle of newly passed drivers.

UK licences distinguish between automatic and manual transmission vehicles, dependent upon which type of vehicle the driving test is passed in. Whilst a manual transmission vehicle licence permits the holder to drive a vehicle of either kind, an automatic transmission vehicle licence is solely for vehicles with automatic transmission. The licence also shows if a driver requires glasses or contact lenses to meet the legal driving requirements, if known.

Forklift trucks require a separate licence, issued by third-party training companies rather than the DVLA/DSA, which regulate all other vehicles.

Whilst the DVLA has included Welsh on driver licences issued in Wales for many years, requests for Scots Gaelic - also an official language in the UK - to be included on licences issued in Scotland have so far been rejected.


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