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Driving licence in the United Kingdom: Wikis

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In the United Kingdom, the driving licence is the official document which authorises its holder to operate various types of motor vehicle on public roads. In England, Scotland and Wales they are administered by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and in Northern Ireland by the Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA). As a licence is required to drive on a public road[1], any person may drive on private land with the consent of the landowner, but it is illegal - regardless of any licence - to drive on any common public land, such as moorland.[2]

Contents

Background

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.[3] Until a United Kingdom driving test has been passed (which consists of three sections: theory and a hazard perception test followed by a supervised driving examination) a driver will hold a provisional licence[4] and be subject to certain conditions.

The conditions attached to provisional licences of a particular category of vehicle are:[5]

  • 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.[6]

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.[citation needed]

After passing a driving test, the provisional licence is surrendered for a full UK licence (which must be done within two years of passing the test)[4] for the relevant kind of vehicle, although 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[7]). There are no extra speed, signage or alcohol consumption restrictions on newly passed drivers (unlike some other countries). However if a newly qualified driver gains six penalty points within two years of passing, the licence is automatically cancelled and the driver must pass the test again, including the theory.[8] Furthermore, the six points remains on the new licence until their designated expiry time.[9] It is optional to display newly passed green on white 'P' plates on the vehicle of newly passed drivers.

UK licences distinguish between automatic- and manual-transmission vehicles. 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 an automatic transmission.

Forklifts require a separate licence. Forklift truck licences are issued by third party training companies, and not by the DVLA/DSA, which regulate all other vehicles.[citation needed]

While 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.

History

Driver registration was introduced in 1903 with the Motor Car Act. Holders of the sulphur-yellow covered document were entitled to "drive a motor car or motor cycle".[10] The wording changed in 1930 after which holders were allowed to "drive or steer a motor car or to drive a motor cycle". It was not clear why a motor cycle would not need to be steered. Shortly afterwards, the document cover changed to a dark red colour: holders were for a period entitled to drive a vehicle of "any class or description".[10] Subsequent changes saw the document list precisely those vehicle types for which holders were licensed.

Competency tests were introduced in 1934 by the Motor Vehicles Regulations 1935; they were suspended in 1939 for seven years due to the Second World War and in 1956 for one year due to the Suez Crisis. The only person in the United Kingdom who is not required to have a driving licence in order to drive is The Queen. She also does not require number plates on any vehicles which are personally owned by her.[11]

Until 1973, driving licences (and tax discs) were issued by local authorities, and had to be renewed every three years. In 1971, the decision was taken to computerise the licensing system to enable it to be linked to the Police National Computer, as well as extending the life of the licence up to the driver's 70th birthday.

Until July 1998,[12] driving licences outside Northern Ireland did not have photographs. Anyone who holds a licence issued before this date may retain their photo-less licence until expiry (normally one's seventieth birthday) or until they change address, whichever comes sooner. The new "photocard" driving licences are a two-part document, a plastic photocard which has to be renewed every ten years, and a paper sheet (the "Counterpart Driving Licence") which is valid until the holder's seventieth birthday. The Counterpart details the individual's driving entitlements and convictions ("endorsements"). Endorsement codes stay on the licence for 4–11 years depending on the offence.

Licences issued to residents of England, Northern Ireland and Scotland appear only in English, whilst those issued to residents of Wales appear in both English and Welsh.

Each licence holder has a unique driver number, which is 16 characters long. The characters are constructed in the following way:[13]

  • 1-5: The first five characters of the surname (padded with 9s if less than 5 characters)
  • 6: The decade digit from the year of birth (e.g. for 1987 it would be 8)
  • 7-8: The month of birth (7th character incremented by 5 if driver is female i.e. 51-62)
  • 9-10: The date within the month of birth
  • 11: The year digit from the year of birth (e.g. for 1987 it would be 7)
  • 12-13: The first two initials of the first names, padded with a 9 if no middle name.
  • 14-16: Three computer check digits or letters

The UK uses a point system to handle repeat offenders.

Driving licence codes

This is a list of the codes that might be found on a UK driving licence.

Licence code Vehicle type Minimum age Notes[Notes 1]
A1 Motorcycle 17 Light motorcycles with a cubic capacity not exceeding 125 cc and of a power output not exceeding 11 kW (14.6 bhp).
A Motorcycle 17 Motorcycles up to 25 kW (33 bhp) and a power to mass ratio not exceeding 0.16 kW/kg. Motorcycle combination with a power mass ratio not exceeding 0.16 kW/kg.
A Motorcycle 21 [Notes 2] Any size motorcycle with or without a sidecar.
B1 3 or 4 wheeled light vehicles 17 [Notes 3] Motor tricycles/quadricycles up to 550 kg (1,200 lb) unladen.
B Cars 17 [Notes 4]
  • Motor vehicles with a MAM not exceeding 3,500 kg having not more than 8 passenger seats with a trailer up to 750 kg (1,700 lb).
  • Combinations of vehicles in Category B and a trailer, where MAM of the combination does not exceed 3,500 kg (7,700 lb) and the MAM of the trailer does not exceed the unladen mass of the towing vehicle.
    Example: A vehicle with an unladen weight of 1.25 tonnes and a MAM of 2 tonnes coupled with a trailer with a MAM of 1.25 tonnes could be driven by the holder of a category B entitlement, as the MAM of the combination does not exceed the unladen weight of the towing vehicle.
B Minibuses 21 Vehicles with between 9 and 16 passenger seats not for hire or reward. MAM not exceeding 3.5 tonnes or 4.25 tonnes including specialist equipment for the carriage of disabled passengers. No trailer of any size may be pulled. B licence must have been held for 2 years.
B (Automatic) Automatic cars 17 [Notes 5] As cars (B), but only those with automatic transmission.
B+E Cars with trailers 17 [Notes 6] Combinations of vehicles consisting of a vehicle in category B and a trailer, where the combination does not come within category B. The MAM of the trailer must not exceed the mass of the unladen towing vehicle
C1 Medium sized vehicle 18 Vehicles between 3,500 kg and 7,500 kg with a trailer up to 750 kg.
C1+E Medium sized vehicle with trailers 18 Combinations of vehicles where the towing vehicle is in subcategory C1 and its trailer has a MAM of over 750 kg provided that the MAM of the combination thus formed does not exceed 12,000 kg and MAM of the trailer does not exceed the unladen mass of the towing vehicle.
C Large vehicles 18 Vehicles over 3,500 kg with a trailer up to 750 kg.
C+E Large vehicles with trailers 18 Vehicles over 3,500 kg with a trailer over 750 kg.
D1 Minibuses 18 Vehicles with between 9 and 16 passenger seats with a trailer up to 750 kg. See also under B
D1+E Minibuses with trailers 18 Combinations of vehicles where the towing vehicle is in subcategory D1 and its trailer has a MAM of over 750 kg, provided that the MAM of the combination thus formed does not exceed 12,000 kg, and the MAM of the trailer does not exceed the unladen mass of the towing vehicle.
D Buses 18 [Notes 7] Any bus with more than 8 passenger seats with a trailer up to 750 kg.
D+E Buses with trailers 18 Any bus with more than 8 passenger seats with a trailer over 750 kg.
f Agricultural tractors 16 [Notes 8] N/A
g Road rollers 21 [Notes 9] N/A
h Tracked vehicles 21 N/A
k Mowing machine or vehicle controlled by a pedestrian 16 N/A
l Electric vehicles 17 Category now deprecated - tests no longer available (since 2001) for this category. Vehicles now fit into category B1 or B.
n Vehicles used for very short distances on public roads N/A Category now deprecated - tests no longer available (since 2001) for this category. Vehicles now fit into category B1 or B.
p Motorcycles 16 Engine capacity must not exceed 50 cc and the maximum design speed must not exceed 50 km/h (31 mph)

Endorsements

A UK driving licence may be endorsed by the courts for various offences, and not only for those committed whilst driving or in charge of a vehicle. If a licence isn't held by the individual committing the offence, the endorsements may be put by until such a time as a licence is held. Some endorsements incur penalty points which may remain on the licence for up to 11 years.

Notes 
  1. ^ MAM = Maximum authorised mass
  2. ^ Age 21 or 2 years from date of standard A test pass.
  3. ^ Age 16 you may be issued a licence if you are in receipt of the higher rate of disability living allowance. However if the rate is withdrawn, the normal minimum age for driving a car (17 years) applies.
  4. ^ At the age of 16 you can be issued a licence if you are in receipt of the higher rate of disability living allowance. However if the rate is withdrawn, the normal minimum age for driving a car (17 years) applies.
  5. ^ At age 16 you may be issued a licence if you are in receipt of the higher rate of disability living allowance. However if the rate is withdrawn, the normal minimum age for driving a car (17 years) applies.
  6. ^ If you passed your category B or B automatic test before 1 January 1997 your licence will already show C1, C1E (8.25 tonnes), D1, D1E (not for hire or reward) as entitlement flowing from the category B.
  7. ^ Age 17 if member of armed forces; age 18 under certain other circumstances
  8. ^ Age 16 for tractors less than 2.45m wide. It must only pull trailers less than 2.45 m (96 in) wide with two wheels, or four close-coupled
  9. ^ Age 17 for small road-rollers with metal or hard rollers. They must not be steam powered, weigh more than 11.69 tonnes or be made for carrying loads

References

External links

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