How Much Do You Know About Your Driving Licence?

For many of us, the driving licence is one of our most important documents, but it usually sits forgotten in our wallets or purses until we need to collect a parcel from the post office or we get pulled over by the police. In fact, you probably haven’t looked at it in any great detail for quite some time. How confident would you be if someone asked you when your licence expires. Or what vehicles you’re legally allowed to drive?

Before you check, private plate supplier Regtransfers presents 12 things you probably didn’t know about your driving licence.

Driving without a valid licence is a crime

This one should be a bit of a no-brainer, but there’s always the odd news story that pops up about it. Driving without a valid licence could land you with a £1,000 fine, up to six points on your licence, disqualification from driving, and in some cases, seizure of your car. It’s a criminal offence and will be recorded as such.

Driving with an expired licence can result in the same penalties as driving without one. Using a provisional licence without a qualified driver or driving a vehicle not covered by your licence are also offences.

What constitutes a valid licence? In the UK, a valid driving licence must be issued by the DVLA/DVA, have up-to-date personal details, and display the correct vehicle categories. The photocard must be renewed every 10 years (or paper licence details updated as necessary). The driver must meet the minimum age requirement, be medically fit, and free from disqualifications. Though not related to the licence itself, any vehicle you drive should also be insured, have a valid MOT certificate if required, and be correctly taxed.

Incorrect details can invalidate your licence

All information on your licence must be accurate. Incorrect details might mean you’re technically driving without a valid licence, which could potentially result in the repercussions outlined above.

You might need to retake your test

If your licence is out of date for two years or more, you may need to retake your driving test before a new one is issued.

Your licence expires every 10 years if you’re under 70

But don’t worry, it’s not something the DVLA expects you to keep track of yourself. They’ll send you a reminder when it’s time to renew, but it’s wise to keep track of your renewal dates regardless, so you’re not caught out.

Your licence expires when you reach 70

You need to renew your licence when you reach 70 years of age, even if you renewed it less than 10 years before. From age 70, you’ll need to renew your licence every three years if you want to keep on driving, rather than every 10.

You may need your licence to vote

At the time of writing, it’s election day in the UK. Several types of photo ID are accepted at UK elections, with the driving licence being a convenient choice for many.

The British driving licence is over 100 years old

Introduced in 1903 under the Motor Car Act, the first driving licences registered vehicles, but didn’t assess one’s individual driving abilities. Driving tests weren’t introduced until 1935, and the requirement to take one was suspended during the Second World War.

The photocard licence isn’t as old as you might think

While the first licences were printed on coloured paper, the photocard driving licence we use today wasn’t introduced until 1998, originally coming with a paper counterpart that was “scrapped” in England, Scotland and Wales in 2015 but remains in Northern Ireland.

You can check your licence details online

Details of endorsements and penalties are no longer printed on the physical licence. You can check them on the government website at gov.uk/view-driving-licence, and share details with others like insurance companies or prospective employers.

Karl (or Carl) Benz might have received the first driving licence

The German automobile pioneer, credited with inventing the first modern car, may have been issued the first ever driving licence in 1888 by Grand Ducal authorities. He received written permission to drive after his neighbours complained about the noise and smell generated by his invention.

Henry Ford didn’t get his licence until he was 56

Proving that you’re never too old to learn to drive, the American industrialist famous for mass-producing cars received his licence later in life, at the age of 56, compared to Benz who got his at 44. In 2017, Eileen Ash from Norfolk became the oldest person in Britain to pass a driving test, doing so at the age of 105.

Summary

Your driving licence is much more than a piece of plastic in your wallet – it’s a vital document that confirms your legal right to drive, and keeping it current and up-to-date can help you avoid hefty fines and other legal troubles. From its historical beginnings to the modern-day regulations, there’s a lot to know about your driving licence, and regularly checking your details online and staying on top of renewal dates can prevent any unwelcome surprises. Having a valid driving licence isn’t just about following the rules – it’s about ensuring the safety of both yourself and your fellow road users.

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