A look at the vehicle and driver paperwork that goes with motoring
As you can imagine, the laws governing how we behave and what we may and may not drive on public roads are extremely wide-ranging and detailed. We offer some introductory guidance on this page. We have taken trouble to ensure it is as accurate as possible, but we should warn that it is only general advice and you should not attempt to use it as part of any legal defence.
Before you drive a vehicle on a public road, you will need a valid driving licence for the vehicle being driven. There are two types of driving licence, provisional and full. You must be at least 16 before riding a motorcycle and 17 before driving a car.
Provisional licence: to comply with the law you will need to display ‘L’plates and be supervised by a qualified driver sitting in the front passenger seat. You are not allowed to drive on motorways, nor are you allowed to tow a trailer.
Full licence: if you hold a full licence, then you can drive vehicles in the category of licence you hold, usually without restriction. Your full licence acts as a provisional licence for other categories, subject to the usual restrictions imposed on provisional licence holders.
You must also have appropriate insurance which allows you to have a vehicle on the public road. This includes driving it, parking it or leaving it because it has broken down. You must be insured to use a motor vehicle on a public road. The minimum level of insurance is known as ‘third party’, which will typically cover you for any damage you cause to other people or their property. ‘Comprehensive’ insurance covers accident damage to your own vehicle as well as fire damage and theft. Driving without insurance is a serious offence. That’s why it pays to be absolutely sure that you are properly covered if you plan to borrow a friend’s car.
Formerly the paper tax disk, the system for taxing vehicles is now completely electronic. To use and keep a vehicle on a road it must have a current Vehicle Excise Licence. Untaxed vehicles can be seized by the police and DVLA immediately and drivers will be prosecuted, resulting in a large fine and a requirement to pay any tax arrears.
If you are not using your car and have taken it off of the road you must notify the DVLA through the Statutory Off-Road Notification (SORN) process. Failure to do this can also result in a fine and the vehicle being clamped. Further information on how to tax your vehicle or declare it SORN can be found at www.gov.uk.
If your vehicle is over three years old then it requires a valid MOT Test Certificate to be used on the road. This annual test looks at various aspects of your vehicle to ensure that it is roadworthy and does not present a danger to other road users. MOT certificates are valid for one year.
You should make sure before driving a vehicle that it is in a roadworthy condition. There are dozens of ways in which you could fall foul of the many regulations governing vehicle roadworthiness – far more than we can cover in this section. But as a guide, penalties cover everything from relatively minor violations such as empty windscreen washer bottles and non-functioning horns through ill-fitting roof racks and cracked mirrors to much more serious offences such as bald tyres, steering and brake defects and the overall condition of a vehicle.
- Make a weekly check of fluid levels, lights and tyres. Toot the horn as well, to ensure it’s working.
- Check again before any long journey.
- Investigate any new noises or vibrations in your vehicle. They usually mean some form of maintenance is required promptly.
- Don’t overload your vehicle and ensure you have an unobstructed view.
- Don’t delay replacing a cracked windscreen.
- Always clean a dirty windscreen before a journey, and in winter make sure the windscreen is completely clear of ice and snow before you go anywhere.
- Don’t put unnecessary stickers on your windscreens.
Frequently asked questions
Q: I am taking my car for a service and have been offered the use of the garage’s courtesy car. Will I be insured to use it?
A: It’s your obligation to make sure you are properly insured. The garage may have a policy that covers you, but you won’t know unless you ask. If in doubt, check with your insurer.
Q: My car was recently hit by a third party. There will be a delay of around six weeks before I can get it repaired. I’m worried that someone could be injured by some sharp points on the bodywork. What should I do?
A: The law requires any motor vehicle to be in such a condition that it won’t cause danger – however remote the risk – to any member of the public. As a temporary measure you could cover any sharp areas with strong tape, though make sure you don’t risk further damage to paintwork and don’t obscure any lighting in the process. Your repairer may be able to offer more specific advice.
Q: I have just received a speeding ticket. Is it my responsibility to tell my insurer now, or when I renew my insurance, or can I leave the burden on the insurer to find out?
A: You are obliged to disclose any motoring convictions, including speeding. The wisest step is to inform your insurer immediately, then there can be no complications when you make a claim. You should certainly disclose the information when you next renew. If you don’t and you subsequently try to make any claim, the insurer may refuse to pay part or all of the claim.
Q: My MOT certificate is out of date. Presumably I have to take my car to a garage to get a new MOT, so what offence would I be committing on the journey to the garage?
A: If you drive a car without a valid MOT certificate then under current law a court can fine you up to £1,000. However, a non-endorsable fixed penalty ticket would be more usual. You will avoid any penalties on your journey to the MOT garage by ensuring you have pre-booked your MOT appointment.
The information on this Site is provided on the understanding that GEM Motoring Assist is not rendering legal or other advice. You should consult your own professional advisers as to legal or other advice relevant to any action you wish to take in connection with this website