An official authority to drive a motor vehicle, granted upon passing a driving test. A renewable provisional driving licence, valid for 12 months, may be granted to learner drivers, but the holder of a provisional licence may not drive a motor car on a public road unless accompanied by a qualified driver and unless he displays “L” plates on the front and rear of the vehicle.
A full licence may be obtained by anyone who has passed the Department of Transport driving test, which is carried out by the Driving Standards Agency (an executive agency) and is now preceded by a written test, or held a full licence issued in Great Britain, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, or the Channel Islands within ten years before the date on which the licence is to come into force. It is normally granted until the applicant's 70th birthday. After the age of 70, licences are granted for three-year periods. The applicant must disclose any disability and may be asked to produce his medical records or have a medical examination.
An applicant will not normally be granted a licence if he is suffering from certain types of disability, including epilepsy, sudden attacks of disabling giddiness or fainting, or a severe mental illness or defect. In the case of epilepsy, however, he may still be granted a licence if he can show that he has been free of all attacks for at least two years or that he has only had attacks during sleep for more than three years. If an applicant for a licence has diabetes or a heart condition, is fitted with a heart pacemaker, has been treated within the previous three years for drug addiction, or is suffering from any other disability (e.g. loss or weakness of a limb) that would affect his driving, the grant of a licence is usually discretionary.
It is an offence to knowingly make a false statement in order to obtain a driving licence, not to disclose any current endorsements, or not to sign one's name in ink on the licence. A police officer may require a driver to show his driving licence or produce it personally at a specified police station within five days. He may also ask to see the licence of someone whom he believes was either driving a vehicle involved in an accident or had committed a motoring offence. Failure to produce one's licence in these circumstances carries a fine. See also driving without a licence.
Under the Road Traffic (New Drivers) Act 1995, with effect from 1 June 1997, a driver who is convicted of an endorsable offence and who has accumulated 6 or more penalty points (see totting up) within two years of passing a driving test will have his licence revoked and must retake the test. When the Road Safety Act 2006 (s 34) is brought into force, it will offer an element of retraining for repeat offenders and enable those who successfully complete one of the new range of courses to have penalty points removed from their licence. This is intended to act as an incentive for repeat offenders, who will benefit from a reduced risk of disqualification on reaching 12 or more penalty points.