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Can You Learn to Drive Without a Provisional Licence?

For many teenagers, their 17th birthday is one they look forward to the most as they prepare for the opportunity to finally be allowed out on the road for what will be their first big slice of independence. And for many adults, learning to drive can open up a world of possibilities for travel.

One of the most important documents in a learner driver’s arsenal is their provisional licence. Here, we explain more about provisional licences, and just how important they are.

What is a provisional licence?

A provisional driving licence is there to give you permission to drive on the road without having passed your test yet, providing you are under the supervision of either a qualified instructor or another driver with at least three years of driving with a full licence under their belt, and they are at least 21 years old.

Do you need a provisional licence to learn to drive?

Yes. Your driving instructor will not allow you to get behind the wheel of a car until they have seen your provisional licence. You can apply for a provisional licence from the age of 16, but must wait until your 17th birthday to start learning, so there is no excuse as to not having one ahead of your first lesson. You will also need a provisional licence in order to take a theory test.

What can you do with a provisional licence?

Your provisional licence will allow you to drive any car providing you have an experienced driver in the front passenger seat. However, you will not be able to drive on any motorways and you must display L plates on the front and rear of the car at all times. All speed limits remain the same, unless you are learning in Northern Ireland in which case you are limited to 45mph, and there is no restriction on carrying passengers in the rear.

How long does a provisional licence last?

A provisional driving licence will last for 10 years, but there is nothing to stop you from renewing it at the end of those 10 years. However, if you have passed your theory test, you only have 2 years from the date you passed to pass your practical test, otherwise you will need to retake the theory before you can move on to the practical.

Do I have to renew my provisional if I fail my test?

Failing a test does nothing to your provisional licence, and you can carry on as usual, heading back to lessons and rebooking your test. Even when you pass your test, nothing immediately happens with your licence, and you will need to inform the DVLA of your result so that they can send you your full licence. This is incredibly simple and can be applied for electronically at the test centre after passing your test. Alternatively you can apply via post by signing the pass certificate and sending it, along with your provisional licence, to the DVLA headquarters in Swansea.

When can you get a provisional licence?

Although you will not be able to get behind the wheel of a car until your 17th birthday, you can apply for a provisional licence from the age of 15 years and 9 months, providing you have lived in the UK for at least 185 days within the past 12 months and can read a number plate from 20 metres away. Applying for a provisional will cost you £34 and you will require an identity document, such as a passport, and any addresses you’ve lived in in the past three years. You may also be asked for your National Insurance number.

As a new driver you may be looking for a few hints and tips on how to make sure you’re doing everything legally and safely – if that’s the case then look no further than our Car Care hub, where we talk you through everything from driving lessons to maintaining your vehicle.


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