Minimum ages and rules for learner drivers and riders

Before you begin to learn to drive or ride any vehicle, make sure that you know the rules and restrictions that apply to you. Different vehicles have different minimum ages and restrictions.

Rules for learner drivers and riders

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
  • have a qualified driver with you if you're driving a car

'A qualified driver' is a person who:

  • is 21 years old or older
  • has held a full car driving licence for at least three years
  • has a driving licence from Northern Ireland, Great Britain or an EU country

It is important to learn safe driving practice from the beginning of your driving/riding 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.

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, you must have a qualified driver in the car with you.

As a learner driver, the car you learn to drive in must display ‘L’ plates.  Put an ‘L’ plate on the front and back of your vehicle so they can be easily seen. 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 whether the driver is 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 two 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.

Personal Independence Payments

If you are receiving Personal Independence Payments at the enhanced 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.

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