We all know that there are certain restrictions learner drivers face that are over and above the rules qualified drivers are subject to—and rightly so. Safety on the roads is paramount, and the less experienced a driver is, the more they pose a risk to themselves and others. But what's the deal with passengers? Can you take them in the car with you as a learner driver? Are there age limits involved, maximum numbers, or laws on where the passenger can sit? Will you be allowed to take children with you on a driving lesson? So many questions! Let’s find out.
So long as they don’t exceed the maximum number that the car can legally hold, you are allowed to take passengers with you as a learner driver. However, you must abide by all other laws, including rules that are exclusive to learner drivers. The only person allowed in the front passenger seat with you while you learn is a suitable accompanying driver—and this person must fulfil certain criteria.
The supervising driver law rules out having children in the front of the car. Otherwise, yes, learner drivers can carry child passengers. However, as the driver, you have a responsibility to ensure that all children under the age of 14 are following the laws that apply to them (over-14s are ultimately responsible for themselves). This includes making sure that they’re wearing seatbelts, and using the correct car seats for up to the the age of 12, or shorter than 138cm (whichever comes first). So, in your average five-seater car, you’ll be able to take a maximum of 3 children while you are a learner driver. But there are several other things to think about too.
Although the law allows you to carry child passengers, you are also subject to the specific conditions of your learner driver insurance policy. Your policy holder may impose a curfew, determine whether there is an age limit or maximum number of passengers you can carry, or otherwise affect your freedom to drive. It's best to check with your insurer before you start driving with kids in the car, because failing to adhere to their conditions can invalidate your insurance.
Just because you’re allowed to do something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea. Any passenger can be a distraction to any driver—and the more inexperienced you are behind the wheel, the more this is likely to affect you. Children make for notoriously bad passengers, particularly when there’s more than one of them in the car. Younger children may not understand the full implications of their noise upon your ability to concentrate, and even movements in the back of the car can serve as a distraction in your mirror—not ideal when you’re getting to grips with the basics of driving.
Of course, if you’re going to be ferrying children around after you pass your test, it’s arguably better to have had some practice before you’re left to your own devices. It might also be the case that you are able to practice in between lessons, but only if you take the kids with you. It’s a matter of weighing up the risks and benefits with your skills, and the decision is a very personal one.
The DVSA does not impose any restrictions upon instructors when it comes to taking passengers, so they are legally allowed to take you on lessons when there are children in the back. That said, your instructor first and foremost has a responsibility to make sure you’re as safe as possible, and receiving a good driving education. Individual instructors and driving schools may have differing policies, and for some it might be a blanket ban on any child passengers.
On the other hand, many driving instructors are keen to accommodate learners where possible, so if your driving instructor is flexible on this issue, expect to a frank discussion about the expectations each of you has. Remember, it’s ultimately up to them to make the decision, and they are well within their rights to change their mind if they feel having child passengers is not working. What they can’t do is let you be distracted, so if your children are hindering your ability to drive, you probably need to factor childcare into your learning to drive costs.
Another thing to consider is that driving instructors are not babysitters. Your instructor needs to have their full attention on the roads while you are driving—not just for your sake, but because it's the law. There may also be issues with ensuring that the relevant safety features are in place in your instructor's car—and installing car seats and fastening seat belts will eat into your lesson time.
We don't have a one-size-fits-all policy on whether learner drivers can take child passengers on their lessons. Your individual instructor will have the final say on the issue.
However, if you have a specific request or requirement with regards to your driving lessons, let us know before you book. We match pupils with the instructor we think will work best with them, so asking up-front for an instructor who will consider accommodating your kids in the car can help us find you the most suitable fit. Be aware that it may take us longer to find you an instructor if this is the case.