A driver's license/licence or driving licence is an official document which states that a person may operate a motorized vehicle, such as a motorcycle, car, truck or a bus, on a public roadway. The laws relating to the licensing of drivers vary between jurisdictions. In some jurisdictions, a license is issued after the recipient has passed a driving test, while in others, a person acquires a license before beginning to drive. Different categories of license often exist for different types of motor vehicles, particularly large trucks and passenger vehicles. The difficulty of the driving test varies considerably between jurisdictions, as do factors such as age and the required level of practice.
The first license to drive a motor vehicle was issued to the inventor of the modern automobile, Karl Benz, in 1888. Because the noise and smell of his Motorwagen resulted in complaints by the citizens of Mannheim, Benz requested and received written permission by the Grand Ducal authorities to operate his car on public roads.
Up until the start of the 20th century, European authorities issued licenses to drive motor vehicles similarly ad hoc, if at all. The first locality to require a mandatory license and testing was Prussia, on September 29, 1903. The Dampfkesselüberwachungsverein ("steam boiler supervision association") was charged with conducting the tests, which were mainly concerned with the driver's mechanical aptitude. In 1910, the German imperial government mandated the licensing of drivers on a national scale, establishing a system of tests and driver's education requirements that would serve as a model for the licensing laws of other countries. Other countries in Europe also introduced driving tests during the twentieth century, the last of them being Belgium where, until 1977, it was possible to purchase and hold a license without having to undergo a driving test.
As automobile-related fatalities soared in North America, public outcry provoked legislators to begin studying the French and German statutes as models. On August 1, 1910, North America's first licensing law for motor vehicles went into effect in the U.S. state of New York, though it initially applied only to professional chauffeurs. In July 1913, the state of New Jersey became the first to require all drivers to pass a mandatory examination before receiving a license.
Driver's licenses used for identification purposes
Because a large number of countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States have no national identification cards and because of the widespread use of cars, driver's licenses are often used as a de facto standard form of identification. Most identification cards and driver's license cards are credit card size—the "ID-1" size and shape defined in ISO/IEC 7810.
Many European countries require drivers to produce their license on demand when driving. In such countries, the driver must always carry their license on them when driving. In the United Kingdom, it is not necessary for drivers to carry their license while driving. However, if stopped, a driver may be required to produce their license at a nominated police station within seven days. The police issue a form for this purpose.
Some European countries require adults to carry identification at all times, although a driving license is not necessarily a valid identification document in every European country.
In Spain and Sweden, the driver's license number is the same as the citizen's ID number.
In Poland, a special vehicle registration card and proof of obligatory insurance is also a driving requirement.
In Hong Kong, a driving license in Hong Kong carries the same number as the holder's ID card, but has no photograph. Upon inspection both must be presented. Plans to make the newly phased in Smart ID contain driving license information have been shelved.
Similarly, the Saudi Arabian government require all drivers to carry an ID card in addition to a license and present them whenever requested. In Saudi Arabia using a license instead is only permitted if the request is made for on-site inspection/identification purposes, especially at checkpoints. Expatriates may be requested to present their visas as well.
In the United States and Canada, driver's licenses are issued by the states or provinces, respectively, and do not look the same nationwide. They are also used as a de facto identification document. For persons not fit, not eligible, or due to personal reasons refuse, to operate a motor vehicle, state (United States) or provincial (Canada) agencies – usually the same as the issuer of driver licenses – will issue an identification card with similar attributes to a driver's license. Identification cards do not enable a person to operate a motor vehicle, a fact typically noted on the ID via the phrase 'Not a driver's license' or similar wording.
The number of a driving licence issued by the Dominican Republic has the same number as the holder's Dominican Republic ID card.
In Venezuela, the driver's license number is the same as the citizen's ID number.
Licenses for different categories of vehicles
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In a number of countries (including the United States, New Zealand and some provinces of Canada) people who drive commercially are required to have special licenses. The cost of taking the series of tests and examinations to obtain these licenses usually means that an employer would subsidize his or her drivers.
The minimum driving age in South Africa is 18, except for small motorcycles which may be driven from the age of 16. To obtain a license, applicants must pass a written or computer-based test to obtain a learner's license, and then pass a road test to obtain the driving license.
Egyptian citizens are entitled to a driver's license once they have reached the age of 18. To obtain their licenses, applicants must pass a driving test as well as several computer tests.
In order to pass, all a person had to do was drive six meters forward and then reverse six meters. However, the test was updated to make it more difficult, now the applicant has to answer 8 out of 10 correct answers in a computer test, then pass a forward & reverse S-track test in addition to an assessment of parking skills.
Driver's licensing in Ghana is conducted by the nation's Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority. The legal driving age is 18.
The legal driving age is 18.
In India, being a state matter, each Indian state has a "Regional Transport Authority or "RTOs" (Regional Transport Offices) that issues licences. Minimum age is 17 years for all vehicles, however motor cycle having engine capacity below 50 cc may be driven at age of 16. In India, people aged more than 50 years have to undergo strict medical tests in order to obtain a license. The license validity is five years and requires renewal every five years. In India, a commercial driving license is valid for 3 year
The minimum age for eligibility for learner's permit is 18 years de facto; as the driver's information is saved against the Computerized National ID Card number which is issued at the age of 18. The License Issuing Authorities vary to each district and work under the relative District Police. New credit card format driving licence has been introduced. The licence bears the digital photo, signature and blood group information of card holder. The record of violation is stored automatcally in the database .
To obtain a driver's license in Lahore District one must register for the learner's permit at any of the local District Police's designated license offices and after 42 days can apply for test for a regular full license. The test phase consists of a theory based test followed by a short practical test. Only the ones who pass the theory test are allowed to take the practical test. The whole test stage is a single day process where both the tests are to be taken the same day. The driving license currently issued holds basic information of the Driver including Name, Father's Name, Date of birth, Address, Authorized Vehicle Types, Emergency Contact, Blood Group, Fingerprint Impression, Driver Photo. The license also has a magnetic strip though its viability is yet to be made public.
License issuing authority is Chief Traffic Officer. In-charge of Licensing Branch is a DSP Traffic HQ, who is also given a charge of issuing licenses on behalf of CTO. The said DSP is further responsible for managerial and driving tests issues, under the supervision of Chief Traffic Officer.
The European Union has adopted a common format for driving licenses, and a common set of driving license categories. They were introduced to replace the 110 different plastic and paper driving licenses. The common format with the same information in the same place on all licenses allows the driving license to be understood, even if it is in a different language.
The minimum age for getting a driver's license in Norway is 16 for A1, T (tractor), 18 for A-C and 21 for D. The driver's licenses are always revoked when he/she has reached an age of 100.
The minimum age for obtaining a driver's license in Romania is 18
The minimum driving age in the United Kingdom is 16 for mopeds under 50 cc, and 17 for cars and motorcycles. Access to motorcycles producing more than 25 kW (34 hp) is restricted to riders with two years experience or aged 21. The British Overseas Territories and the British Crown dependencies issue their own driving licences. There is no legal requirement to carry a driving licence in the UK whilst driving, although it must be produced at a police station within seven days, if required to do so by a police officer.
In the United Kingdom, one must hold a Passenger Carrying Vehicle (PCV) license to drive a vehicle with more than eight passenger seats for hire or reward, or a Large Goods Vehicle (LGV) license to drive a vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight (Maximum Authorized Mass) in excess of 3,500kg. Special licenses can also be required in order to transport hazardous materials.
The age to obtain a driver's licence in Canada varies by province, as do the necessary procedures. The minimum age for obtaining a driver's licence to drive unaccompanied in most provinces is 16.
In Barbados, a person 16 years or over can apply for a Learner's Permit which allows them to drive for a specified period with an accompanying tutor. During that period they will be tested on their driving skill and their knowledge of road signs and traffic laws. On passing both the written and driving test the licence is issued. Once issued a driver's licence is valid for a period of one to five years depending on which period of time the driver chooses to pay for. On the expiry of the period for which the licence is issued, it will become renewable on the last day of the driver's birth month and will again be valid for the time period for which payment is made. Visitors and non-nationals who are the holders of a valid driver's licence issued in their country of residence or origin are not allowed to drive automatically in Barbados but must go to a police station to have a temporary local driver's licence issued. The licence is issued on payment of a fee and the production of the visitor's existing licence.
Every vehicle driver must carry a driver's license (Licencia de Conducir), which is issued by COSEVI (Consejo de Seguridad Vial) of the ministry of transportation and public infrastructure (Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte).
For this license to be granted there are three needed tests, practical driving (includes driving a car in simulated streets), theoretical driving (a multiple selection written test based on booklet issued by the education department or after taking a special course), and finally a medical test performed by a medical practitioner that tests eyesight, blood pressure and attests the presence of other diseases and behavior of the driver.
Every citizen can solicit a driver's license at age 18, after being issued the first time, the license must be renewed after two years, and every successive occasion after five years. Foreigners may also obtain a drivers' license if they have residency.
Besides this document the driver must carry the national identity card (Cédula de Identidad), however both documents use the same identification number, the national identity card being the basis of the driver's license number.
All driver's licenses are given by the government agency SERTRACEN (Servicios de Tránsito Centroamericanos S.A. de C.V.).
One needs a minimum of 15 years to receive a drivers's license (a juvenile license). To get a new license, one needs to pass a vision test, a written test, and a driving test. These tests are given at acrredited driving schools. Foreigners with a license from another country can obtain an El Salvador license if they have residency. They will also have to pass a vision test. The driver's licence number is the same as the person's Tax ID number.
El Salvador licenses (as well as vehicle circulation cards) contain a chip which can be read by putting the card in a chip reader.
There are several categories of drivers' licenses in El Salvador:
- Juvenil Particular—License for minors, allowing them to drive cars and pickup trucks
- Motociclista—Motorcycle license
- Particular—License for adults, for cars, vans up to 17 passengers, and pickup trucks.
- Liviana—Taxis, Light trucks up to 5 tons, and buses up to 30 passengers.
- Pesada—Buses greater than 30 passengers, and trucks greater than 5 tons.
- Pesada T—Trucks with more than 3 axles.
A citizen may obtain a learner's permit once he or she is age 17. A learner will get their driver's license upon being proven competent, only through the results of both a written and practical test. This license expires on the holder's fifth birthday after the date of issue.
Driving licences in Mexico are regulated by each state, and they all have different rules and requirements. However, all state driving licences are recognised across Mexico, and international licences with an IDP are also recognised as well.
A driver is allowed a learner's permit at the age of 15 (in some states), with the cost of approximately 100 dollars, a duration of a year, and requiring to drive with an adult at all times. At the age of 16, the fee drops to 30 dollars, and a driving permit is issued with some usage restrictions, depending on the state (like a curfew). When a driver turns 18, he or she is allowed a full licence.
The eligible age varies substantially by state. Nationally by age 16 one can obtain a license after passing the requisite tests and drive without adult supervision. Since the driver's license is a commonplace document that carries much of the necessary information needed for identification, it has become the primary method of identification in the United States.
In the United States, a holder of a Driver License is typically legally allowed to operate a motor vehicle up to 26,001 pounds, is not carrying hazardous materials or more than 16 passengers (driver included). Most jurisdictions when granting driver licenses only permit the holder to operate a road worthy four or more wheeled vehicle. To operate a two-wheel motorized vehicle with a sustainable speed greater than 30 miles per hour requires an endorsement upon the license, typically after successful completion of a theory and practical test.
On the Federal Level, Motor vehicles with a Curb Weight of GCWR of 26,001 pounds or more, a vehicle designed to transport 16 or more passengers (driver included), or a vehicle transporting hazardous materials can only be driven by an operator carrying a Commercial Driver License (Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986). Upon successful completion of theory and practical testing endorsements can be applied to a CDL to allow legal transport of specialty types of goods:
- T Semi trailer Double or Triple (Written Test)
- P Passenger Vehicle (Written and Driving Tests)
- S School Bus (Written and Driving Test, Background Check, Sex Offender Registry Check and P endorsement)
- N Tank Truck (Written Test)
- H Hazardous materials (Written Test and Background Check through the Transportation Security Administration)
- X Combination of Tank Vehicle and Hazardous Materials (Written Test)
- W Tow truck. (Written Test)
Various state statues also mandate that CDL must be held to operate vehicles not covered by federal statues.
The minimum driving age varies between 16 to 18 years of age in different States and Territories. After the minimum age, a graduated licensing scheme operates, with state variations.
The minimum age to obtain a Learner Licence is now 16 in New Zealand, formerly 15.
Cook Islands driving licences are issued at police headquarters on Rarotonga, on production of a valid licence from the visitor's home country. To use a scooter or motor cycle (the main hire vehicles for tourists) a short test has to be taken by anyone whose home licence is only valid for cars, in which a police officer observes the applicant riding up and down the main street of the capital.
The minimum age for a driving license is 18 years old. It is obtained via a test in a car, a computer and the applicant must present a vision test which says they are permitted to drive
Licensing bureaus in many countries add an organ donation option on license forms. Sometimes a small picture of a heart or the term Organ Donor is printed on the driver's license, to indicate that he/she has agreed to donate his/her organs in case of a sudden death, such as in a car accident.
In the United States, this is governed by the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act. In New Zealand and Republic of Ireland, willingness to donate organs for transplantion is also listed on driver's licenses. In Australia, the system of notating organ donation requests on licenses was replaced in July 2005 with a national registration system and the issue of special cards.
Many groups of countries have agreed to recognize driver's licenses issued by authorities of any of its members. Examples include the European Union and the GCC, where holders of driver's licenses issued by any member state can drive in all member states. Most countries worldwide will also recognize the licenses of citizens of foreign states wishing to drive as visitors. All EU member countries now issue licenses in a standard format, regardless of the language of the license.
The International Driving Permit (IDP) (sometimes erroneously called the International Driver's License) is a booklet which is an authorized translation of a driver's home license into many languages (especially languages with non-Latin scripts such as Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc.). In some cases, it is obtained from a motoring organization such as the Automobile Association or the equivalent in the driver's home country. In other cases, it is delivered by the same government services that deliver ordinary licenses. The IDP has no validity except when used in conjunction with the driver's own license. The existence of the IDP is necessitated by many countries refusing to recognize driver's licenses written in foreign languages without accompanying translations.
Temporary visitors from the United States to France (less than 90 days) are permitted to drive with a valid U.S. state driver's license. In addition to holding a U.S. driver's license, visitors are advised (but not required) to carry an International Driving permit, or attach a French translation to their U.S. state driver's license.
China, at present, does not recognize IDPs and requires drivers to get an additional Chinese license before being officially allowed on all roads. Holders of foreign licenses are exempt from certain requirements when obtaining a Chinese license.
A minimum driving age often exists regardless of possession of a foreign license; an American cannot drive below the local minimum age in Europe, nor can a 17-year-old Briton drive in mainland Europe where the minimum age is 18.
Many countries have established a driver's license exchange arrangement after reviews of the foreign jurisdiction's licensing processes. Where standards in the other jurisdiction are comparable in areas such as medical standards, minimum driving age, and knowledge and road testing, an exchange (or honoring) of the foreign jurisdiction's license may occur. This may also be called Driver’s License Reciprocity.
Issues when moving permanently from one country to another
Most license-issuing authorities require holders of foreign licenses taking up residence in their jurisdiction to obtain a local driver's license within a limited time (typically 6 months or 1 year). In most cases, the driver must follow the full local procedure for obtaining a license, but some jurisdictions have mutual recognition agreements and will exchange the foreign license for a local one without the need to undertake an additional driving test.
An exception is the EU, where licenses do not need to be exchanged since the introduction of the common EU-driver's-license scheme.
British Columbia has a reciprocal license exchange scheme with other Canadian provinces and territories as well other countries provided the license is valid or has been expired for less than three years. Ontario has a reciprocal license exchange scheme for Canadian provinces and territories, Canadian Forces Europe, and some other countries. Quebec has a reciprocal license exchange scheme for Canadian provinces and territories, Canadian Forces Europe, American states and other countries.
U.S. state driver's licenses can be exchanged from the 15 states below during the first year of legal residence in France: Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.
If you are a resident of France (holder of a carte de séjour or carte de residence), you may drive in France with a valid U.S. state driver's license for a one-year recognition period, beginning on the date of validity of the first carte de séjour (exception for students who are allowed to use their driver's license for the duration of their studies). In addition to having your U.S. state driver's license, residents are also required to attach a French translation done by a sworn translator (expert traducteur or traducteur assermenté).
The U.S. Embassy, supported by the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany, continues to actively press all U.S. states to reach an agreement on the reciprocal recognition of driver's licenses with Germany, essentially a waiver of testing requirements.
As stated on the application form for direct issue of full Hong Kong driving licence (Rev. 11/2008), when a person has documentary evidence to the Commissioner for Transport's satisfaction that all of the following apply, the person is eligible to direct issue of a Hong Kong licence:
- The person has held a full driving licence (not an International Driving Permit) for three years issued by one of the following countries or territories: Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bermuda, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Guernsey, Iceland, India, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jersey, Luxembourg, Macao, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, South Africa, South Korea, Namibia, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the United States.
- The driving entitlement(s) for which one is applying must be equivalent to the class(es) which are authorized to drive by the issuing country or place; and
- The driving license was obtained by passing the relevant driving test(s) in the issuing country or territory; and
- Satisfies one of the three requirements below:
- The licence was originally issued on any date during a period of residence of not less than 6 months in the country or place of issue (entry and departure stamps on a passport, school transcript or employer's testimonial with employment period specified are accepted as proof); or
- The licence has been issued for not less than 5 years immediately before the application; or
- Hold a passport or an equivalent travel document of the country or territory in which the licence was issued.
A foreigner above 18 years of age and holding a Work Pass/Dependent Pass/Student Pass may drive in Singapore with a valid class 3, 3A or 2B foreign licence, for a period of not more than 12 months. A Singaporean driving licence is required after 12 months. Those on short term social visit may drive with their foreign licence for up to 12 months each time they enter into Singapore. For licences not written in English language, an International Driving Permit or translation is required.
Foreign license conversion is only granted for class 2B and class 3 qualified driving licences.
In order to convert your foreign licence to a Singapore driving licence, you are required to pass the Basic Theory Test (BTT). Overseas theory test results are not admissible for consideration.
Residents in Sweden having a foreign license can exchange it to a Swedish license, if it is from an EU country, an EEA country, Switzerland or Japan. Foreign licenses are valid if the holder has not been living in Sweden for more than a year (and some more requirements).
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), which licenses drivers in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales), but not Northern Ireland, exchanges full licences issued by:
- Northern Ireland (although being part of the UK, driving licences are issued by the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) in Northern Ireland),
- Countries within the EEA and Switzerland,
- The British Crown dependencies (Guersey, Jersey and the Isle of Man)
- Gibraltar and other British Overseas Territories,
- Australia, Barbados, the Faroe Islands, Hong Kong, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.
- Canada (by default, Canadian driver's licenses will only be exchanged for licences to drive automatic transmission cars, unless documentary evidence is provided that a manual shift test was passed in Canada)
A District of Columbia driver's license may be obtained while maintaining out-of-country driver’s license. D.C. driver's licenses may vary for non-U.S. citizens, depending on visa classification. The written test is required for non-U.S. citizens who possess an out-of-country driver's license.
New York (the state) driver's license may be obtained by a resident of another country. If the driver has a driver license from any nation except Canada, they must pass a written test, complete a 5-hour pre-licensing course and pass a road test to qualify for a driver's license.
- Commercial driver's license
- Driver's Education
- Learner's permit
- International Driving Permit
- Road-traffic safety
- Vehicle category
- List of countries by minimum driving age
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