Can you drive under 17? We answer your young driver questions
Can you drive under 17?
The not-very-simple answer to the question of if you can drive under 17 is yes and no. It all depends on what you’re driving and where. Let us tell you more about young drivers in the UK, with a clear rundown of the rules and regulations.
In essence, you need to be 17 years old to drive on public roads. You will need to be in possession of either a full driving licence or a provisional driving licence. In both cases you need to be insured and the car you’re driving needs to have a current MoT and road tax. But you can drive on private land at any age. More about that later, but first:
What are the rules of driving on a provisional licence?
If you’re driving with a provisional licence you need to be supervised at all times by a registered instructor, or someone who meets the DVLA rules. You cannot drive on motorways and you will need to have legal ‘L’ plates displayed on the car. And it’s worth noting that anyone supervising must not use a mobile phone at any point. You can take passengers in the car, up to the number legally allowed in your particular car.
What does ‘someone who meets the rules’ mean for someone supervising a learner driver?
Those supervising a person driving on a provisional licence must be at least 21 years old and have held their driving licence for at least three years. Full details can be found on the DVLA website.
But on the DVLA website it says I can apply for my provisional licence at the age of 15 years and 9 months?
Yes that’s correct, but it does not mean you can drive a car on the public roads as soon as you receive it. It does mean you can learn to ride a moped as soon as you turn 16, hence why you can apply for a provisional licence at such an early age. You will still need to wait until the day you are 17 before you can go out on the public roads under supervision in a car though.
OK, so that’s driving on the public roads, what about driving on private land?
If you own the land, or you have permission from the land owner, you can indeed drive (or ride) any motor vehicle on it regardless of age. You don’t need to be insured, have an MoT or any other legal documents. There’s no need for an instructor either.
That sounds great!
Yes, but remember that the vehicle won’t be insured in case of an accident and you have to give the fact that you are letting a youngster drive your vehicle with little or no experience serious consideration. Oh and remember, if you have to use public roads (or even, say, push a motorbike along a grass verge) to get there, you need to adhere to the usual rules and regulations of driving on public roads, that’s to say insurance, MoT etc.
So it’s off down to the supermarket car park when it’s closed for a quick lesson?
No. Whilst technically it’s private land, the Road Traffic Act extends to places like this, as they are ‘accessible to the public’. So to drive around a supermarket, pub or any other car park-type place, the all rules for driving on public roads apply.
Is there way you can get to driving tuition under the age of 17?
Yes! There are lots of driving schools that offer what they call ‘First Drive’ experiences. These take place at driving centres away from the public roads. Some of them even boast full road-style layouts with junctions and roundabouts. All lessons are by expert driving instructors and the cars are all dual-control. The advantage is, of course, that you aren’t taking risks in your family car.
What are the requirements for these ‘First Drive’ experiences?
In the case of the first driving lessons it’s more about height than age. Youngsters will need to be tall enough to be able to reach the pedals, which means a minimum height of a 4ft 6” (or 1.42cm for metric fans). As a guide, most schools say young driver lessons are suitable for ages 10 to 17 years old.
Are they just like a proper driving lesson?
Yes. That’s exactly the idea. The aim is to give youngsters keen to get ahead the chance to experience what it’ll be like once they turn 17 and learn to drive on the public roads. It’s a great confidence builder and will set them on the right road to being an aware and competent driver. You can read more about what learner drivers need to learn on the DVLA Car and Light Van Driving Syllabus.
Can teenagers drive supercars at off road centres?
Contrary to what you might think, the answer is yes! The same rules apply, as the experiences all take place on tracks and circuits with dual controlled cars. So you’ll find cars like Jaguars, Ferraris, Mustang GTs, Lamborghinis, Aston Martins and even Nissan GT-R Skylines are available for youngsters under the age of 17 to drive. We still think these operators are mad to let teens loose on their very expensive tin-wear, but hey!
So if we’re talking private driving centres and race tracks, what else can kids drive at them?
Well that’s just it – pretty much anything! As there are a lot of circuits and tracks around the UK, the choices for under 17s driving experiences is quite amazing. There are experiences for teens to head off on a quad bike safari, drive an articulated truck, go 4x4ing in Land Rovers and pick-ups and even drifting and stunt driving sessions. After all, if you’re not allowed to drive on the public roads yet, you might as well learn to do some handbrake turns on the loose gravel off road instead!