Minimum ages and rules for learner drivers and riders
Before you learn to drive or ride a new vehicle, make sure you know about the rules and restrictions that apply to you. Different vehicles have different minimum ages and restrictions.
Rules for learner drivers
Before you start to drive or ride, you must:
- hold a valid, provisional driving licence for Northern Ireland or Great Britain
- make sure that any vehicle you drive is roadworthy and properly taxed and insured
It is important to learn safe driving practice from the beginning of your driving career because bad habits are hard to break. Experience has shown that learners who have a combination of professional training and private practice perform better during the driving test. Get together with your instructor and the person who will be helping you to practise and discuss what you need to focus on.
Changes to driving licence rules from 19 January 2013
Driving licence rules in Northern Ireland will change from 19 January 2013. There will be many new rules for motorcycles, cars towing trailers, buses and lorries. Find out more about these changes and how they could affect you.
Safe driving habits
Learning safe driving habits from the start will improve your safety and that of other road users. If you want to practise your driving with an accompanying driver, the accompanying driver must be over the age of 21 and must hold a full licence, in the relevant vehicle category, for at least three years.
As a learner driver you must display 'L' plates in a conspicuous position on the front and rear of your vehicle. These plates should be removed when the vehicle is not being driven by a learner, as the maximum speed limit for a vehicle displaying 'L' plates is 45mph. This is irrespective of the driver being a learner or not (with the exception of goods vehicles, buses, and coaches on a motorway).
Minimum age you can take a test
You can take your theory test once your provisional licence becomes valid. Normally, for car drivers, the earliest date your provisional licence can become valid is your 17th birthday. However you can apply for the licence up to three months before your 17th birthday.
So, if you apply for your provisional licence before you are 17, you will still have to wait until your 17th birthday before you can book your theory test.
Disability living allowance
If you are receiving disability living allowance at the higher rate, you can apply for your provisional licence three months before your 16th birthday. The licence will only come into effect on your 16th birthday.
Mopeds and tractors
If you want to ride a moped, you can take your theory test when you are 16, but again you must make sure you have a valid provisional licence. If you are 16 and already have a provisional licence for an agricultural vehicle or a moped, this will include provisional entitlement to drive a car but it only comes into effect when you are 17.
Download the leaflet Learning to Drive, which has some useful information before you take to the road:
More useful links
- How to book, change or cancel your theory test appointment
- The theory test explained
- The hazard perception test (HPT) explained
- How to book a practical driving test
- Practical test for cars explained
- Motorcycle practical test explained
- Driver Record (PDF 58 KB)
- Instructor Record (PDF 115.9 KB)
- Help with PDF files