From mobile phone use to licences, there are lots of rules around driving in the UK.
If you’re just starting out on your journey, learning to drive can be a costly business. You’ve got theory tests, lessons, practical tests, and learner driver insurance all putting a big dent in your wallet. The more times you have to take your test, the more expensive it gets, so it makes sense to get as much time behind the wheel as you can in between lessons.
But can you ask your dad, mum, or your best mate to help you out and save some money? Whether you’re a parent or friend, here’s what you need to know about who can sit with a learner driver.
In This Guide...
Sitting with a learner driver: the essentials
Even if you do have a full licence, there are still certain criteria you’ll need to meet to be able to supervise a learner driver. You must:
- Be at least 21 years old.
- Hold a valid, full licence for the vehicle being driven (either automatic or manual) from the UK or a country in the EU or EEA. If your licence is for an automatic vehicle only or has restrictions then you cannot supervise a learner driver in a manual car.
- Have held that valid licence for a minimum of three years
- Meet the minimum eyesight standards for driving.
The car you use for practice will need to display ‘L’ plates on the front and back. As the supervising driver, you are also responsible for making sure it is roadworthy, and that the correct insurance is in place.
Can I sit with a learner driver if I’m currently disqualified from driving?
No. Only drivers with a currently valid licence can accompany a learner driver.
What if I’ve been disqualified from driving in the past?
The rules on who can sit with a learner driver specify that you need to have held a valid licence for at least three years. This is so only drivers with relevant experience can sit with a learner driver. If you passed your driving test three years ago but lost your licence for 12 months during this time, you will only have held a valid licence for two years. That means you would not be able to sit with a learner driver.
If, however, you were under a ban or points-based disqualification some time ago and have held a valid licence for more than three years (discounting the time you spent off the road), then you can supervise a learner driver.
What happens if I drive on a provisional licence without a qualified driver?
Put simply, you’re breaking the law. It’s illegal to drive on a provisional licence without a qualified driver beside you. If you are caught, you’ll receive a fine and penalty points. For new drivers, that could mean an instant ban as soon as you’ve passed your test.
While you can accumulate up to 12 penalty points on a provisional licence, once you’ve passed you’re on a two-year ‘probation’ which means that you can only have up to six points on your licence before you receive a year’s ban. As driving a car without a full licence or without a qualified driver supervising you means that any insurance you have is invalid, you could easily be given up to six points in one go. That could mean you’re facing a year ban as soon as you’ve passed your test. You may then have to resit your test, adding to the expense.
If any other offences such as dangerous driving are included then you may have a longer ban, and have to resit an extended test as well. You’re then pushing the cost of getting on the road into the thousands of pounds, and all for the sake of driving without a qualified driver in the passenger seat. On top of that, the police have the right to take your car away too, and can also authorise it to be crushed. That would mean no licence, and no car. In the longer term, your future car insurance premiums are likely to be much higher, too.
Can a learner driver pay me to sit with them?
It’s illegal to take any money or other payment for accompanying a learner driver unless you are an Approved Driving Instructor.
Can you have passengers as a learner driver?
As long as the front seat passenger meets the requirements for who can sit with a learner driver, it is okay to have additional passengers in the back. However, if you are a learner driver then it may be an idea to leave your mates at home if you’re out practising your reversing around a corner, so you don’t get distracted by ‘back seat drivers’!
Can a child be in a car with a learner driver?
As long as the front seat passenger meets the requirements for who can sit with a learner driver, it’s legal for children to also be in the car. However, given the potential distraction of having a child in the car, it is not advisable. Consider having just the learner driver and an experienced driver in the car to supervise for at least the initial practice sessions.
Can I leave the ‘L’ plates on when a qualified driver is behind the wheel?
No. You should remove your ‘L’ plates (‘D’ plates in Wales) after each practice. However, don’t forget to put them back on again before you head out for your next session. Our top tip: go for L-plates that have a magnetic strip in them so they can be easily removed and repositioned without damaging the vehicle.
What are the rules on alcohol and supervising a learner driver?
When you’re supervising a learner driver, you have all the same legal responsibilities as when you’re driving. Effectively, you are just as much in control and responsible for the vehicle as the driver. That means it’s definitely not okay to be supervising a learner driver if you are over the legal drink-drive alcohol limits or if you have taken illegal drugs.
If you do supervise a learner driver while under the influence, you can be charged, fined and potentially lose your licence. The learner driver may also be penalised, as they are not being supervised by someone who is capable of controlling the vehicle.
Can I use a hand-held mobile while supervising a learner driver?
No. Even if you are sitting in the passenger seat, if you are supervising a learner driver you cannot use a hand-held mobile phone. If you do and you are caught, you’ll receive six penalty points and a fine of £200 – the same penalty as if you were the actual driver.
What insurance do I need to sit with a learner driver?
If you’re supervising a learner driver in a vehicle that you own, you need to make sure that your insurance specifically covers a learner driver with a provisional licence. This means you’ll need to add them as a named driver.
What you do need to be aware of, though, is that by adding a learner driver to your policy you could be affecting your premiums, and you may have to pay more from the outset. If they then have an accident while driving your vehicle then you can be absolutely sure that your premiums will go shooting up.
You should also double check the small print. There may be a curfew imposed, for example preventing the learner driver from being on the roads at certain times of the day or night.
What if they own the vehicle?
If you are supervising the learner driver in a vehicle that they own, you’ll normally be covered by their learner driver insurance, but don’t assume anything, and always double check to see if there are any restrictions on the age of someone supervising the learner. Many insurance companies will specify that the supervising driver needs to be at 25 years old. Other insurance companies refuse to cover supervising drivers at all, so it’s absolutely essential that you check before you set off.
Making sure that the right insurance is in place is imperative. Without it, the driver can face an unlimited fine, be banned from driving (after passing their driving test) and the penalty points will make future car insurance premiums even higher.
Don’t think that it all comes back to the driver, either. Remember that as a supervising driver you are held equally culpable and that means you could also be prosecuted for allowing a learner driver to drive without valid insurance. So, if you’re not sure if the learner driver is covered, speak to your insurance broker.
What happens if we have an accident during a lesson?
This is where things can get very complicated. Unfortunately, learner drivers are far more likely to have an accident than experienced motorists, including minor ‘fender benders’. Both the driver and the supervisor can be held accountable for an accident. The reason you can be regarded as partially responsible is that as the supervisor the onus is on you to maintain some degree of control over the car. Unless there is clear evidence to prove that the learner driver alone was responsible for the accident (by ignoring a command, for example), then you could end up with a hefty insurance claim logged against you.
Our top tip: Install a dashcam that also records events and conversations inside the car. Not only can it be used to assess the skills of the learner driver later on (a useful educational tool), but it can also be important evidence in the event of an accident and subsequent insurance claim.
Can a supervised learner driver go on the motorway?
Only if they are being taught by a fully qualified DSA-approved driving instructor, so you can’t head out onto the M25 on a Sunday afternoon for ‘a bit of practice’ with your dad! As of June 4th 2018, learner drivers have been allowed to drive on UK motorways. As motorway driving is so different from normal roads, the government decided it would be a good idea to allow learners to experience motorway driving as part of their training. At the moment, learner drivers who want to drive on a motorway must be accompanied by an approved driving instructor (ADI) and be driving a car fitted with dual controls.
Call Park Insurance for cheap learner driver insurance
Park Insurance is a trusted independent insurance brokerage with over 30 years’ experience of helping learner drivers. We know how expensive it can be to get that precious licence, so we go out of our way to help you make it more affordable by finding the best value insurance for new and learner drivers.
Our status as preferred brokers by many of the UK’s top insurance providers means that we have the influence and the contacts to hunt down those special deals for you, even if you’ve just had your 17th birthday and are brand new to the world of motoring. We can also advise you on who can sit with a learner driver, and whether your supervisor’s insurance covers you and them for those Sunday afternoon practice sessions.
Our expert team shop around some of the UK’s best insurance companies and negotiate a deal on your behalf. We’ll find you learner driver insurance cover that lets you get out on the road safely and at a price that suits your budget. Complete the form below for a callback and our specialist insurance team will have a quote ready for you in no time! Alternatively, give us a ring on 0117 955 6835 to get started.