L Plates & P Plates ….A little info

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When and Why should L Plates be displayed?

When a provisional licence holder is driving the car, they must be accompanied by a full licence holder who has held a full UK/EU driving licence for minimum of 3 years; the accompanying driver should also be at least 21 years old. Additionally, red L plates are a mandatory requirement and should be displayed to the front and rear of the vehicle, usually to the off-side for greater visibility in traffic.

There are specific dimensions for L Plates, as described below and a wide variety is available – from adhesive to magnetic and the tie-on type;

L Plate dimensions









For best results – and minimal losses in the wind – I would recommend the all-over magnetic type as detailed below (See P Plates).

Avoid placing L Plates in any windows, where they could easily obscure the driver’s vision.


In Wales learner drivers may display either red L plates or red D plates. This acknowledges the bilingual status of drivers in Wales.

The first Official driving test was introduced in 1936 and one year later in 1937,  it became mandatory for learners to display L Plates.

The British Driving test was suspended for the duration of World War Two.


P plates/Green L Plates & UK law

In some countries, P plates are mandatory requirement, though currently, in England, Scotland and Wales, there are no legal requirements for newly qualified drivers to use  P-plates or alternatively, Green L Plates. It is for the drivers to decide whether or not they wish to display them and for how long they wish to display them.

Each driver may use P Plates for as long as it takes to develop confidence as a new independent road-user

The driver can use them for as long as they wish and until they feel confident enough to remove them.


Who can display P plates/Green L Plates?

As already explained, there are no hard and fast rules regarding the use of Green P Plates, other than the user must have passed the UK Practical Driving Test for Car (Cat B) – but other than that, there are no legal requirements.


So are there any rules whilst displaying P plates/Green L Plates?

If a new driver wishes to use P plates, these should be displayed in a prominent position at the front and rear of the vehicle. Contoured areas should be avoided however, as these provide an easy route for wind and rain to remove the plates from the car body.  As with Red L Plates, numerous varieties are available and these include, the all-over magnetic type (more expensive but less likely to blow away), the type with a magnetic strip at top and bottom (these almost beg to fly away at speeds over 25mph), the adhesive type (solid fix) or the tie-on types.

Unlike Red  L plates, there are presently no penalties for using the wrong size, wrongly placed or defaced plates.


Are P plates/Green L Plates a good idea then?

P plates like L plates usually inform other drivers that the driver displaying such plates  has limited road experience and their actions may not be as predictable as those of a qualified driver. Drivers’ reaction to P plates however is often quite different to those displaying L plates.


Whilst drivers displaying L plates may traditionally have less experience than those displaying  P plates, other drivers usually know that it’s likely an approved driving instructor with dual controls, is sitting alongside the learner and that the ADI has an overriding  control in risky situations.

Consequently learners will quite often receive a fairly hard time from other drivers,  impatiently attempting to pass them or simply to hurry them up


Drivers displaying the P plate quite often receive a milder reception however.

Like learners displaying L plates, they too have a reduced experience of our roads but are somewhat more vulnerable as they are “Flying Solo” in  the car.

Other experienced drivers realise this and as such, are less likely to apply pressure;  it’s very possible that the consequences of pressuring them could potentially cause an accident.


Advice to experienced drivers

Identify the Drivers displaying L Plates & P Plates and use an increased awareness, as they may not react as you would and are often prone to sudden braking (as is the case with some learner drivers).

Above all, a little empathy will go a long way towards road safety, in other words –remember the learner or inexperienced driver in front used to be YOU.


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