Legal Obligations for New Drivers



It can be quite overwhelming, the amount of information you need to revise for the driving theory test, and the volume of on-road experience you need to get through the practical. And then, it seems, once you do actually pass your tests, there is a whole other bundle of stuff you need to take care of before you can actually go out driving on your own.

In truth though, the legal obligations placed on new drivers aren’t that onerous, and will be easy to remember after a few years. And if you forget then there’s no shortage of information available online. Let’s run through the main points:

Learning to drive

If you haven’t yet passed your test yet then these are your obligations.

You can only drive a car if you have a qualified person accompanying you. In most instances this should be a parent or an instructor. They must be at least 21 years old, have held their own license for at least 3 years, and they must be qualified to drive the vehicle you’re in, for example a manual. Anyone you pay to teach you must be an official instructor. Driving without the appropriate supervision can result in up to a £1000 fine, and 3-6 points on your provisional license.

Your vehicle must display L-plates (or D plates if you’re in Wales).

You will need to arrange a provisional license through the DVLA.

Insurance is necessary – in most cases you can just be put on your parents’ insurance as an additional driver until you pass, which is very easy to arrange.

Lastly, if you need glasses or contact lenses to correct your vision then you must wear them any time you get behind the wheel.

After passing your test

Firstly, congratulations!

Now, assuming that you’re lucky enough to have your own car, there are certain legal obligations that you need to fulfil or risk falling foul of the law, which can involve fines, points on your license, or worse, it being taken away from you altogether.

Firstly, your vehicle will need to be registered with the DVLA, if it hasn’t been already (if it’s someone else’s, such as your parents).

Next, you’ll need to pay your road tax – this varies depending on either your engine size, or the car’s fuel type and amount of CO2 emissions it produces. Here’s a handy calculator to help you work it out – you’ll need to know the make, model and age of your vehicle). From October this year you will no longer need to display a disc on your windscreen showing your tax is up to date. You will be able to pay annually, bi-annually or monthly by direct debit, and it will cost around 5% more if you do pay in instalments.

If your car is over three years old, or one year in some cases, then to ensure it is roadworthy you will need to have an annual MOT carried out at a garage. This checks everything from your tyres to your lights and engine. Finding a trustworthy operator is essential, as it’s not unknown for some technicians to bill for unnecessary repairs, although this problem is becoming rare.

You’ll also need to have insurance, with third party a minimum, to cover you against damage caused to other people’s property. Again this varies, and for new drivers can be very expensive, but there are various methods you can employ to reduce it. For example, taking an advanced driving test; installing black box telematic in the car to monitor your driving performance, and buying a safe car with a small engine size.

You will also need to inform the DVLA if:

  • You develop a medical condition that may affect way you drive, such as loss of hearing
  • You sell your car or modify it, such as adding a spoiler
  • You change your name or address
  • You take your vehicle off-road