Getting Started - The Road to Driving

When you decide to learn to drive, there are various laws and rules you will need to adhere to enforced by the DVLA (The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency). There will be restrictions on the type of vehicle you can learn to drive in according to your age along with other factors such as who can accompany you when you are driving. According to the latest RAC reports, there are more than 30 million drivers who regularly use the British roads and every year more than 1 million learners take their driving test hoping to become licensed drivers. Getting a driving licence is an important milestone, but learning to drive requires time, effort, and dedication, as well as solid knowledge of what is expected from every driver.

How old do I have to be to get a provisional licence?

In Great Britain and Northern Ireland you must to be 17 years old to hold an official provisional licence. You can apply for the provisional licence up to 3 months before your 17th birthday, bear in mind that won't be valid until you actually turn 17. If you are only applying for a provisional licence to drive a moped, the minimum age is 16 years old.

Who can accompany me when I am practising driving?

Once you have your provisional drivers licence, you need to be accompanied by a driver who is more than 21 years old and who has held a full licence for a minimum of three years, in the relevant vehicle category. Many new drivers start learning with the help of friends or relatives, and while this is perfectly legal, your chances of success will be much higher if you take your first steps behind the wheel with a qualified driving instructor.

Can I drive any car?

No, there are different age restrictions for different vehicles; you must check first that the one you are planning to drive is appropriate for your age. You must also ensure that the vehicle is properly taxed, insured and roadworthy.

Are there any other rules for learner drivers?

Yes, you must display your "L" plates on the front of the vehicle you are driving, in a prominent position. (In Wales this is "L" or "D" plates). Once you have your licence and before you get behind the wheel, you will need to pass a theory test. Tests are taken at authorised centres and cost £25. You can book your test online through the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency.

The theory test features 50 multiple-choice questions. You will have 57 minutes to go through them and you will need to get at least 43 questions right to pass. To prepare for this multiple choice test you will need to read and understand the rules contained in the Official Highway Code. You can access it online or print it and study it in your own time. You can also buy a printed copy from major online retailers and bookstores. The next thing you will need to familiarise yourself with is the Know Your Traffic Signs booklet. Lastly, you will need to study the car or motorbike Essential Skills guide, which can be bought from the Safe Driving for Life online store.

You can practice online by taking mock tests at the Safe Driving for Life website. There are also several smartphone and tablet apps available to help you get used to the test format.

You will also need to take a hazard perception test. During this part of the test, you will be presented with 14 one-minute video clips and you will need to identify the hazards as soon as possible. You will have to score at least 44 points to pass. You can prepare for this test by watching the official DVD.