Motor vehicle documentation learner and restricted driver requirements

Part of: The Highway Code, The Highway Code Annexes


Driving licence

You must have a valid signed driving licence for the category of vehicle you are driving. You must inform the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) if you change your name and address.

Law RTO 1981 Art 3

Holders of non-European Community licences who are now resident in the UK may only drive on that licence for a maximum of 12 months from the date they become resident in this country.

To ensure continuous driving entitlement:

  • a UK provisional licence should be obtained and a driving test(s) passed before the 12-month period elapses
  • in the case of a driver who holds a licence from a country which has been designated in law for licence exchange purposes, the driver should exchange the licence for a UK one


Cars and motorcycles must normally pass an MOT test (vehicle test) four years from the date of the first registration and every year after that.

You must not drive a motor vehicle without an MOT certificate, when it should have one.

Exceptionally, you may drive to a pre-arranged test appointment or to a garage for repairs required for the test. Driving an unroadworthy vehicle may invalidate your insurance.

From 30 September 2013, motor vehicles manufactured before 1960 will be exempted from an MOT requirement, although they can still be submitted for a test voluntarily. Owners are still legally required to ensure their vehicle is safe and roadworthy.  

Law RTO 1995 Arts 61, 63, 65 & 69


To use a motor vehicle on the road, you must have a valid insurance policy. This must at least cover you for injury or damage to a third party while using that motor vehicle.

Before driving any motor vehicle, make sure that it has this cover for your use, or that your own insurance provides adequate cover. You must not drive a motor vehicle without insurance.

Also, be aware that even if a road traffic collision is not your fault, you may still be held liable by insurance companies.

Law RTO 1981 Art 90

Uninsured drivers can now be automatically detected by roadside cameras.

The types of insurance cover are indicated as follows:

Third-party insurance

This is often the cheapest form of insurance, and is the minimum cover required by law. It covers anyone you might injure or whose property you might damage. It does not cover damage to your own motor vehicle or injury to yourself.

Third-party, fire and theft insurance

Similar to third-party, but also covers you against your motor vehicle being stolen, or damaged by fire.

Comprehensive insurance

This is usually the most expensive, but the best insurance. Apart from covering other persons and property against injury or damage, it also covers damage to your own motor vehicle, up to the market value of that vehicle, and personal injury to yourself.

Registration certificate

Registration certificates (also called harmonised registration certificates) are issued for all motor vehicles used on the road, describing them (make, model, etcetera) and giving details of the registered keeper.

You must notify the Driver and Vehicle Agency in Swansea as soon as possible when you buy or sell a vehicle, or if you change your name or address.

The seller is responsible for advising DVLA there has been a change of registered keeper. The procedures are explained on the back of the registration certificates and at, ‘Tell DVLA that you have sold or bought a vehicle’.

Law RV(R&L)R Part IV

Vehicle tax

Vehicle tax must be paid on all motor vehicles used or kept on public roads.

Law VERA sects 29 & 33

Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN)

This is a notification to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in Swansea that a vehicle is not being used on the road. If you want to keep a vehicle untaxed and off the public road you must declare SORN – it is an offence not to do so. A SORN will remain in force until the vehicle is taxed, sold or scrapped. If your vehicle is unused or off the road, it must have either a SORN declaration or be taxed.

Law RV(R&L)R reg 26 sch 4

Production of documents

You must be able to produce your driving licence and counterpart, a valid insurance certificate and (if appropriate) a valid MOT certificate, when requested by a police officer.

If you cannot do this you may be asked to take them to a police station within seven days.

Law RTO 1981 Arts 180 & 180A

Learner drivers

Learners driving a car must hold a valid provisional licence. They must be supervised by someone at least 21 years old who holds a full EC/EEA licence for that type of car (automatic or manual) and has held one for at least three years.

Laws MV(DL)R reg 12 & RTO 1981 Art 3

Vehicles. Any vehicle driven by a learner must display red L plates. Plates must conform to legal specifications and must be clearly visible to others from in front of the vehicle and from behind. Plates should be removed or covered when not being driven by a learner (except on driving school vehicles).

The speed limit for vehicles displaying L plates is 45 mph (72km/h), except goods vehicles, buses and coaches on a motorway.

Laws MV(DL)R reg 12, RTO 1981 Art 19 & MV(SLRE)R reg 2

You must pass the theory test (if one is required) and then a practical driving test for the category of vehicle you wish to drive before driving unaccompanied.

Law MV(DL)R reg 30

Restricted drivers

After passing the driving test for a motor car or a motorcycle, you must display amber R plates for a period of one year from the date of passing the test.

The plates must conform to legal specifications and must be clearly visible to others from in front of the vehicle and from behind. Plates should be removed or covered when not being driven by a restricted driver.

The maximum permitted speed for a motor car or category A1  motorcycle displaying R plates is 45 mph (72km/h), whether or not the vehicle is being driven by a restricted driver. The speed restriction does not apply to A2 or A motorcycles, although R plates must be displayed for the first year after passing the test.

Laws RTO 1981 Art 19A & MV(PR)R

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