In the UK, provided that you’re adhering to all the relevant rules, a learner driver can carry passengers.
However, the learner driver must carefully consider if carrying passengers is the best decision for them and must look at the potential impact it could have on their concentration and focus. It is definitely advisable to avoid carrying passengers during your first several lessons.
General Rules for Driving with Passengers
For the carrying of passengers in a standard vehicle, there are not a huge number of rules to follow. If you want to drive a minibus or bus, you will need to investigate the rules that apply to passenger-carrying vehicles.
We’ve briefly outlined the basics for standard vehicles below:
No more passengers than permitted in the vehicle
You may only carry as many passengers as there are seats and seatbelts. If the back seat has 3 seatbelts, you may not carry 4 passengers in the back.
All must wear seatbelts
If your passengers are under 14 years of age, you must make sure to check that they have strapped in before you start driving. If they’re older than 14, it is their responsibility to wear their seatbelt. However, if they don’t, they could be fined, and it also will endanger the other passengers in the vehicle.
Children under 12 must be in a car seat
According to UK law, all children under the age of 12 or children under 135cm/4 feet 5 inches in height need to be in an appropriate car seat, whether a booster or full seat. This will best ensure their safety.
Advice for Learner Drivers Driving with Passengers
Make sure to have an appropriate supervising driver
From a legal standpoint, the passenger in the front passenger seat needs to be someone who has had a full driving licence for more than 3 years and is over 25 years of age. They don’t need to be an approved driving instructor (API), provided the learner driver is not driving on a motorway.
If you want to travel on the motorway, make sure to have an API with you and that your vehicle has dual controls.
No mobile phone use
Neither the learner driver nor their supervising driver may use a mobile phone while driving. Other passengers can but should be aware of how they may distract the driver and that the light from their screens can affect the learner driver’s vision when driving at night.
Be aware of passenger distractions
While the law does permit learner drivers to carry passengers, it is important that the learner driver is aware of the potential distractions that come with carrying passengers.
Some passengers, especially younger ones, can be rowdy. They may not be cognisant of their disruptive behaviour and the effect it has on the driver.
If you’re driving at night, there’s a chance that your passengers may have had a drink or two. If you’re still an inexperienced driver, this can be a challenging situation to navigate, as driving at night is difficult enough on its own.
Transporting children could be risky
While it is not against the law for a learner driver to drive with children in the vehicle, it is important to weigh up the potential risks.
When you’re learning to drive, you are often not very confident and can be more likely to be in an accident. While there are times that you can’t avoid taking your child with you for the driving lessons, it can be best to leave them at home until you are more confident and have passed your driving test.
It is also important to check your learner driver insurance policy to see what it says about having child passengers in the vehicle while you’re learning to drive.
Who can sit next to a learner driver UK?
Any adult over the age of 25 who has had their full driving licence for at least 3 years can sit next to a learner driver in the UK and give them lessons. They must also be qualified to drive the vehicle in which the learner driver is practising. For example, if they’re learning in a manual car, you’ll need to hold a manual car licence.
The only exception is if the learner driver wants to drive on the motorway – if this is the case, they need to have an approved driving instructor with them and need to travel in a car with dual controls.
Can learner drivers drive 7-seaters?
There are no rules preventing a learner driver from driving a minivan in the UK. However, these vehicles are large and can be more difficult to learn in than a more compact vehicle.
The fact that these vehicles can take more passengers can also pose a challenge, as your friends may assume that you can assist in driving them around before you are ready to, or your family may want to combine driving lessons with transporting siblings to various after-school events.
Who is responsible if a learner driver crashes?
Learner drivers are held to the same level of responsibility as a driver with their full driving licence. If a learner driver is in an accident, they are responsible and should follow the same guidelines that a fully licenced driver would in the same situation.
Every person driving with a provisional licence should have learner driver insurance to cover them in the event of a crash.
Can a supervising driver sit in the back?
While there is no law stating that the supervising driver needs to sit in the front passenger seat of the car, it is advisable for them to do so, as it will allow them to give better advice and be more alert to any potential issues.
It also will allow them to better assist in emergency situations, as they will be able to reach the emergency brake and grab the steering wheel if needed.
Do I have to be insured to sit with a learner driver?
The short answer is no. As the supervising driver, you need to be qualified to drive the vehicle that the learner driver is practising in, older than 25 years of age (or more, if the car owner’s insurance policy requires it), and must have had your full driving licence for more than 3 years.
The longer answer is that the learner driver needs to be insured to drive in the specific vehicle that they are using. The easiest way to ensure this is to purchase temporary learner driver insurance. Learner driver insurance can be purchased for an hour to 24 weeks, depending on your needs.