Motor vehicle documentation and learner driver requirements
This Highway Code applies to England, Scotland and Wales. The Highway Code is essential reading for everyone.
Driving licence. You MUST have a valid driving licence for the category of motor vehicle you are driving. You MUST inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) if you change your name and/or address.
[Law RTA 1988 sects 87 & 99(4)]
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 British provisional licence should be obtained and a driving test(s) passed before the 12-month period elapses, or
- 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 British one
MOT. Cars and motorcycles MUST normally pass an MOT test three 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 motor vehicle may invalidate your insurance.
[Law RTA 1988 sects 45, 47, 49 & 53]
Insurance. 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 incident is not your fault, you may still be held liable by insurance companies.
[Law RTA 1988 sect 143]
Uninsured drivers can now be automatically detected by roadside cameras. Further to the penalties for uninsured driving listed in 'Penalties', an offender’s vehicle can now be seized by the Police, taken away and crushed.
[Law RTA 1988, sects 165a & 165b]
The types of cover available are indicated below:
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 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, etc) and giving details of the registered keeper. You MUST notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in Swansea as soon as possible when you buy or sell a motor vehicle, or if you change your name or address. For registration certificates issued after 27 March 1997, the buyer and seller are responsible for completing the registration certificates. The seller is responsible for forwarding them to DVLA. The procedures are explained on the back of the registration certificates.
[Law RV(R&L)R regs 21, 22, 23 & 24]
Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). All motor vehicles used or kept on public roads MUST display a valid Vehicle Excise Duty disc (tax disc) displayed at all times. Even motor vehicles exempt from duty MUST display a tax disc at all times.
[Law VERA sects 29 and 33]
Statutory Off-Road Notification (SORN). This is a notification to the DVLA that a motor vehicle is not being used on the road. If you are the vehicle keeper and want to keep a motor vehicle untaxed and off the public road you MUST declare SORN - it is an offence not to do so. You then won’t have to pay any road tax for that vehicle for a period of 12 months. You need to send a further declaration after that period if the vehicle is still off the public road. The SORN will end if you sell the vehicle and the new owner will become immediately responsible.
[Law RV(RL)R 2002, reg 26 sched 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 RTA 1988 sects 164 & 165]
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 16 & RTA 1988 sect 87]
Vehicles. Any vehicle driven by a learner MUST display red L plates. In Wales, either red D plates, red L plates, or both, can be used. 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).
[Law MV(DL)R reg 16 & sched 4]
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 40]