It’s easier than you think to break the law without so much as getting behind the wheel of a car. If you’re a learner driver you’ve probably been working hard to nail your Highway Code and driving test, so here’s some crucial legal stuff you may have overlooked.
Your provisional driving licence
If you haven’t started driving lessons yet, you can apply for a provisional driving licence up to three months before your 17th birthday. It won’t be valid until you turn 17, however, so don’t get behind the wheel on a public road until that date, otherwise you’ll be breaking the law.
The good news is you can take your theory test on your 17th birthday, so you can still be doing something useful in the lead up to this date by learning your Highway Code etc.
MOT – is your car roadworthy?
Learner drivers are often taught in an instructor’s car, but a lucky few do have their own and use it for lessons and/or private practice with a supervisor. With a limited budget at their disposal, a young driver’s first car is usually getting on a bit, so it’s important to ensure it has a valid MOT certificate.
An MOT test is an annual legal requirement for any vehicle over three years old to ensure it is roadworthy and does not pose a danger to other road users. Check the date your MOT is due and don’t forget to book your test.
You must insure your car with at least Third Party insurance to comply with the law. The DVLA holds a database of every vehicle and its registered owner and can cross-check against an insurance database to detect any car that is not insured, so don’t think you won’t get caught.
There has been some confusion about car insurance in the past so it’s worth pointing out that if you are the main driver or registered owner, it’s illegal to obtain insurance in your parents’ or other person’s name to obtain a cheaper premium.
Yes, it’s expensive to insure your first car as a young driver; it’s tempting to use your parents’ longer experience and no claims bonus to buy the policy and add yourself as a named driver. This is called fronting – it basically amounts to insurance fraud and could land you in court and a criminal record.
This is something else the DVLA can check on, so don’t forget to keep your road tax up to date. You should receive a reminder in the post when it’s due for renewal. If you don’t, or you’ve only just bought the car, you can apply online or by phone (call 0300 123 4321) or at some Post Office branches.
Supervision whilst learning to drive
There’s a common misconception that anyone who has passed their driving test can act as a supervisor and accompany you while you practice driving. The law actually states that supervisors must be over the age of 21 and must have held a full, valid driving licence for at least three years.
Displaying “L” plates
While you’re still learning to drive you must display “L” plates prominently when you drive. Any vehicle with “L” plates must stick within a speed limit of 40 miles per hour.
These legal requirements are easy to forget when you’re concentrating on passing your driving test, so take care to make notes of when car tax, MOT and insurance are due for renewal and check that anyone who supervises you whilst driving meets the correct criteria.
Safe and happy driving.