History of the Driving Licence in the United Kingdom

The driving licence was introduced by the Motor Car Act in 1903. Holders of this yellow(ish) document – that were not required to pass a test – were entitled to “drive a motor car or motor cycle”. The wording changed in 1930 to “drive or steer a motor car or to drive a motor cycle”. Shortly afterwards, the document’s cover became red and holders could drive a vehicle of “any class or description”. The Road Traffic Act of 1934 required new motorists to pass a practical test before receiving a licence. There was a short grace period to prevent a rush of candidates, but from June 1st 1935 every motorist – that started driving on/after April 1st 1934 – had to pass a test. Some of the test elements are still assessed today such as turning in the road. Interestingly, testing was suspended during World War 2 and the Suez Crisis. After various paper-based evolutions, the credit card size photo licence was introduced in 1998. This more secure and convenient format – albeit with various evolutions – is likely to be the standard format for many years to come.