Learning to drive laws
Yay! No more sponging lifts off your parents. If you're learning to drive, here's what you need to know.
Getting your driving licence
It is an offence to drive a car or ride a motor cycle without the correct licence. You get a full licence when you have passed your test, which will be valid until you are 70. After this, drivers must pass a medical, and a licence is issued for three years at a time. New licences are now the size of a credit card, containing the holder's photograph. If you already hold a paper licence, you do not need to change it to the new format. If you want to learn to drive, first obtain a provisional licence.
Application forms are available from a post office or the DVLA website. When you get your licence, sign it immediately - don't drive until you've done so. Car drivers and motorcyclists can hold the same provisional licence until they are 70. When you are learning to drive you must display L plates, which should be removed or covered up when the vehicle is not being driven by a learner driver. Learner drivers must not ride or drive on a motorway.
What age can I start driving?
- At 16 you can ride a moped up to 50ccs and a mowing machine.
- At 17 you can drive a car with up to eight passengers, a motorcycle, and a tractor
- At 18 you can drive a van or lorry up to 7.5 tons.
- At 21 you can drive all other vehicles, including a minivan. For hiring a car, most car hire companies have a minimum age of 21 or 23.
Learning to drive a car
The driving test is in two parts, a written theory and a practical test. The theory paper, which must be passed before the practical test, lasts one hour and fifteen minutes and is made up of 35 multiple-choice questions and a hazard-perception test. The theory test can be taken on a weekday, evening or Saturday at one of the 140 centres throughout the country.
As a learner driver, you must have someone with you in the front passenger seat of the car who is over 21 and has held a full driving licence for at least three years. This person must be fit to drive and must not have had more than the legal amount of alcohol.
Learning to drive a motorcycle
Motorcyclists also have to take both a written theory and practical test to gain a full licence unless they already have a full car licence, when only the practical test must be taken. Before you can ride a motorcycle on the road you must have successfully completed a Compulsory Basic Training Course, and will be limited to a motor-cycle of no more than 125cc. After passing the practical test, you are restricted to bike with a power output of up to 25kw or 33 bhp for 2 years, after which you may ride any size of bike. Riders over the age of 21, however, who don't want to wait this long before riding a larger bike have a choice of further tests, known as direct and accelerated access.
Most vehicles which are three years old or more must be tested for an MOT certificate it they are to be used on the road.
A car or motorbike which is either being used or allowed to stand on the road must display a current tax disc. The fine for breaking this regulation can be up to £200. It is a crime to use a tax disc belonging to another vehicle.
Car insurance explained
It is an offence to drive, ride or even place a motor vehicle on the road without insurance. The penalties for this are very heavy, and it makes no difference for someone to say it was a genuine mistake and that they thought they were insured. Failure to have insurance means a fine and penalty points on a licence, and maybe disqualification. It is also an offence for someone to allow their car or bike to be used by a person who is not insured to drive it. There are three different kinds of motor insurance, offering different levels of cover:
- Third party insurance: only pays for damage caused to other people or their property. This is the minimum level of insurance cover required by law;
- Third party fire and theft: gives you further protection by covering you against theft or fire damage to your own vehicle;
- Fully comprehensive insurance: is usually the most expensive, but covers the cost of accident repair damage to your own vehicle as well as compensating others for injuries or damage in the accident.
When you apply for any insurance, make sure the information you give is accurate. If it's not, your insurance will be invalid. It's an offence knowingly to make a false statement to obtain insurance.
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