There are many misunderstandings about driving, from first applying for your provisional to obtaining your full licence. Here are the answers to the most commonly asked questions
How do I apply for my provisional licence?
You may apply for your licence two months before your 17th birthday using a D1 application form which is available from the post office. Currently the fee (March 2011) is £50. You will need the following documents in order to complete your application form;
1. Current full passport
2. Identity card issued by a member state of the European Community/European Economic Area (EC/EEC)*with the exception of Sweden.
3. Travel documents issued by the Home Office
4. UK certificate of naturalisation
5. You can also use your birth certificate, but will need one of the following in addition:
6. Certified passport sized photograph.
Must you always carry your drivers licence with you when driving?
No. As long as you have a valid licence, you don't need to carry it. If you are ever stopped by the police and asked for it, they will give you 7 days to produce it at a ploice station.
What are provisional licence conditions?
As a provisional licence holder your vehicle must show L-plates (D-plates in Wales) at the front and back of the car. You must have a qualified driver with you who is at least 21 years of age and who has held a full licence in that category for at least three years.
You are not allowed to drive on a motorway unless you're learning to drive a bus or lorry.
How many passengers can I have in the car driving with a provisional licence?
As many passengers as the car can legally carry. You can also carry passengers during your driving lessons, as long as your driving instructor says it's alright.
How many points can I get on my licence before I'm banned?
Any driver who gets six penalty points or more on their licence within two years of passing their practical driving test will automatically lose their licence and have to go back to a provisional licence and 'L' plates until they have passed another, possibly extended and more expensive driving test. Experienced drivers are allowed up to twelve points before they loose their licence.
Can I start driving lessons with an instructor before passing my theory test?
Yes, and the DSA encourages it. They believe the best way to learn is to study them in conjuction with one another. However, you need to have passed your theory before taking your practical.
"Those who pass their driving test have had, on average, about 45 hours of professional training combined with 22 hours of private practice. Learners who prepare this way, with a combination of plenty of professional training and plenty of practice, do better in the test." (DSA website).
Can I take my car theory test before my 17th birthday?
No. You can only take your theory test once your provisional licence becomes valid. For a car this will be your 17th birthday. You can book your theory test before your 17th birthday.
Does my instructor have to book my test?
No, you can do this yourself. However, check the dates with your instuctor first as he/she may be busy that day. You can do this online or on the phone.
How much is the theory test?
£31 (May 2009)
How much is the practical test?
£62 during the day and in the week. £75 at the weekends and evenings (May 2009)
What documents do I need to take to the practical test?
You will need to take your photo card licence and its paper counterpart to the test centre.
It is also advisable to take the following to the test centre:
your theory test certificate
your CBT certificate
If you haven't the correct documents you will not be allowed to take the test.
What percentage of people pass first time?
Sadly, only 43%. We have a great deal of unqualified instructors giving lessons in the UK, be sure your instuctor has a green badge in his window, otherwise he /she may be unqualified.
Can I use an automatic car for the driving test?
Yes. If a person passes a test in an automatic car then they can only drive vehicles with an automatic transmission. A full automatic licence acts as a provisional manual licence.
How long do the tests last for?
40 to 50 minutes including the show me/tell me section.
Can I use my own car for the test?
Yes, but beware. The examiner needs to be satisfied that the car is roadworthy. They'll be checking the tyres are legal, lights are not broken and working, external mirrors are present and not cracked, and the windscreen is clean and not damaged. The car must also be taxed, insured, displaying valid registration numbers and 'L' plates.
If the car fails to meet any of these requirements, the examiner will point out the problem, and will give you about 5 minutes to fix it, failure to fix this issue will result in the driving test being terminated and you losing the test fee.
You are also required to provide an extra mirror for the examiner (if you don't have a mirror tell the examiner before you walk out, they usually have some spare in the office, but don't count on it, it is your responsibility), the seatbelts must be working properly and the car must have proper rear seats for adults, so you can't use a 2 seat coupe for the driving test.
What is the best time of day to take the test?
Depends on you. Some people are better in traffic, others prefer it quiet.
What do most people fail on?
Below is list of the Top Ten reasons to why people fail their driving test:
1. Inappropriate speed - travelling too slowly or being hesitant
2. Reversing around a corner - ineffective observation or a lack of accuracy
3. Moving away safely - ineffective observation
4. Observation at junctions – inefficient observation and judgement
5. Lack of steering control - steering too early or leaving it too late
6. Reverse parking - ineffective observation or a lack of accuracy
7. Incorrect positioning to turn right - at junctions and in one way streets
8. Use of mirrors - not checking or not acting on the information
9. Incorrect use of signals - not cancelling or giving misleading signals
10. Incorrect positioning on the road - at roundabouts or on bends
How long does the Pass Plus course last?
This will vary depending on the aptitiude of the candidate but at least six hours tuition must be received.
How much does Pass Plus cost?
As the training is provided by self employed driving instructors, the price of the course will vary, but it is usually about £150. Check to see if your local council offers a "cash back" scheme. In some cases you can reclaim as much as 50% of the costs. Pass Plus courses with me cost £120 and Bristol City Council give you £75 cash back on completion.
Is there a test to take with Pass Plus?
No. Pass Plus is assessment based.
Who is eligible to take part in the Pass Plus scheme?
Anyone who holds a full UK driving licence can take up Pass Plus. However, some insurance company's will only give a substantial discount on motor insurance premiums to those drivers who obtain a Pass Plus certificate within a year of passing their driving test.
I want to take a car test and I already hold a full motorcycle licence. Do I need to pass a theory test?
If you obtained your full motorcycle licence before 1 February 2001, you are exempt from passing your car theory test (but not practical test). If you passed your motorcycle test after 1 February 2001, you will need to pass a car theory test before taking a practical test.
I want to take a motorcycle test and I already hold a full car licence. Do I need to take a theory test?
Yes. Your car licence does not exempt you from taking the motorcycle theory test.I want to become a driving instructor, what do I need to do?
I've moved to the UK and have a foreign licence, can I drive legally?
You need to be over 21 and have held your licence for 4 years plus with little or no points. Obvioulsy it helps if you like driving as you'll be spending many an hour in your car and the ability to stay calm under pressure helps. You'll be expected to complete 3 exams set by the DSA. One testing your theory knowledge, another your driving ability and last and most difficult your teaching ability. Do not under estimate how difficult it is. More people pass the bar to become lawers than pass their exams to become an ADI.
I would also advise learning with a small independant ORDIT certified instructor.
It depends. For some countries you can simply convert your licence to a UK one, all those inside of the EU for example. Those a little further away would usually have to take the practicle exam. If you have an automatic licence from your home country, then you can only drive automatics over here. If you have an automatic licence and want to drive a manual, then you have to take the exam.
No. Your motorbike licence doubles up as your provisional licence.
What is speed choice workshop?
If you have been caught by the police for a minor incident (moderate speeding, jumping a red light etc) rather than picking up 3 points and a fine you have the option of attending the "speed choice workshop". It's a 3 hour lecture/insight into safer driving by the police, trying to raise driver awareness of what has happened. You can only go once, after that, you'll be picking up the points.
A lot of law breaking in regards to driving is cirumstancial. If you were doing 50mph in a 30mph zone, outside of a school at 3pm, I would imagine your licence being taken away instantly. It all depends on the situation. I've read cars going above 90mph on the motorway have their licence taken away and have a one year ban. After the year has passed, you'll be required to retake the theory and practical exam, which is more difficult that the usual 'L' test. It's longer with more manoeuvres.
If you don't lose your licence, you'll get between 3-6 points on your licence plus a fine. If you get 6 points within 2 years of qualifiying, your licence will be taken away and you'll be a learner again.
How long do points stay on your licence for?
Depending on the offence between 3 and 11 years. After 3 years you can pay for a new licence and request the points are taken off. After 4 years it is done automatically.
How many lessons will I need?
How long is a piece of string. Everyone is different and so will take a different amount of time. The DSA, on their own website states that on average students need 45 hours of professional tuition with 22 hours of private practice.
Can I use a 2 door car?
You should bear in mind that not all cars are allowed to be used for
the driving test e.g. the Vauxhall Tigre, Toyota IQ, the two-door ‘Smart’ car
and the BMW Mini convertible. There is a black list on the DSA's website.
Check with the DSA if you intend to purchase a car that you have not seen used by other ADIs. Some cars have been the subject of a manufacturer’s recall to fix problems. On a very few occasions this has meant that the car has been temporarily banned from tests until the problem has been fixed, and proof of this is required. Look at the DSA website to see if the car you are intending to buy is mentioned. If it is, check that the work has taken place before you buy it. Verify that, if it has any unusual and exotic controls, they are acceptable for the test.
NOTE - I've heard of people being able to use certain cars that are two door, but they contacted the actual test centre, not DSA, before the test and asked if it would be OK.
The DSA do not like the use of two door cars as you may perhaps have someone else, besides the examiner, sit in on the test. Perhaps the examiner is being examined or a new trainee has to observe the test.
I passed my theory test over 2 years ago, and have also passed my automatic practicle test. If I want to drive a manual car, will I need to retake my theory test?
You will need to take a theory test if you want a licence for a new category of vehicle, for example, if you have a car licence and you want a motorcycle licence you will need to take a theory test.
If, however, you want to upgrade within a vehicle category you will not normally need to take a theory test, for example, if you have a full automatic car licence and you want a manual car licence you will not have to take a theory test.
How long does my provisional last for?
Your provisional licence should last until you have passed your test. You may need to update your photo every ten years though ... if it take that long.
You're theory is not valid. Once you have your licence revoked for collecting 6 points and over in your first two years, you have to take both the theory and practical test again.
Yes, you need both parts in order to take both tests. It can take up to 21 days to receive a new licence.
I have a paper provisional license that expires in 2050. It does not have a photo, do I need to apply for a whole new provisional license, or simply upgrade to a photo license?
No. You're old paper licence will serve as a provisional for life, you will need to take photo ID for the tests however. A passport will do for this.
I have recently passed my test but I am unsure of what badge to use on my car. Some people have said the Red L badge and others a Green P badge. I think its for a year but unsure, can you help me please?
If you have passed your practical driving test, then you are no longer a learner driver and displaying the red L would actually be illegal. The green P or L (both are fine and the same) would be what you could choose to display. There is no law saying that you have to. I'd recommend it however. You're going to still be learning in a way and having the green P/L badge on could explain to others around you why you're still making the odd error here and there. People get very angry, very quickly in cars and this could help diffuse a situation very easily. Display them for at least 6 months.
Please can you tell me if I must have the card style driving license or not? I just have the old paper one, which I have had since I past my test many years ago and have never changed it. Am I breaking the law not to having a full card driving license with my photo on?
No, nothing is wrong with having the licence one, as long as it's the old style paper one. If it had card with it at any stage, then you should have the counter part. If you ever loose it, or it needs updating, it will be replaced with the new style one.
My license currently has my old address on it as I've recently moved, does my address need updating before I can take either my theory/practical tests?
No. You just need to write your new address, in black, on the space at the bottom of the paper part of your licence that says something like "change of address".
If you have any other questions, please email me at
and I will get back to you ASAP
By Will Dracott