UK drivers...a question about drivers licenses

In a thread in GD a question came up about UK drivers and licenses. Could you guys explain how your system works for it’s citizens? You aren’t required (according to a poster in that thread) to carry your drivers license. Ok. What happens when you are pulled over by the police? Do they write you up based solely on your cars license plate? Do they ask you for some other form of ID that is tied to your license? Do they simply ask you for your name and address and use the honor system? What’s the procedure and how does it work in practice?

I know from experience that, like in the US you can drive on private land without a license, so I’m talking only about driving on public roads and such.


The police will issue you with a notice normally referred to as a producer. I’m sure there’s an official name for it, but that’s what most people call it. You will have to produce your documents at a police station usually within 3-5 days. That includes both parts of your license if you have the fairly new 2 part version, your insurance details and MOT certificate if the car is older than 3 years.
They will check the registered owner based on the number plate but will normally take your word for it as to your identity. Unless you annoy them!

Backed up by it being a specific offence to not give these details if stopped while driving.

You’re not required to carry your license while driving.

The police can easily find out details from your license plate in a few seconds. You can identify yourself in any manner you wish. I’ve been asked my name before, given it, and that’s it. If I have some form of ID on me, I might choose to show it in order to facilitate the process, but it is not required.

You may be required to prove you have a license at a later date, but not on the roadside. Generally, they can check all this themselves anyway.

There is no US law about this. It varies by state. Not every state makes it an infraction to not carry your license when driving, although you will have to be able to produce it within a given timef rame if you’re pulled over for an infraction.

True. Good point. There isn’t a common law in the US concerning drivers licenses. Everything depends on the state laws. Most of the places I’ve been don’t require you to have a license to drive on private lands.


I believe it’s 7 days.


ETA: the biggest pain in the arse with this is it used to be that you needed to produce your documents at a specific cop shop. If you were on the other side of the country for a visit, this caused a lot of hassle. I believe these days you can now produce at any police station.

You’re not required to carry any form of ID with you at any time.

A question. Do you guys have any problems with people driving a vehicle other than their own and simply claiming to be the owner when stopped? Or are people generally pretty good about letting the cops know that it’s not their car?


The police can check who the registered owner is through the number plate. They’ve got in-car computers linked to the database so they know your name and address before they stop you. Then, when they stop you, they can ask you your details. If the answer you give doesn’t match with their computer then they know you’re lying.

People do lie about it, but often get caught out. The owner of the vehicle may be issued with a ticket by mail, and if they weren’t driving it at the time of the offence, they’d be liable for the fine/points/prosecution - so if they didn’t want to take the rap, they’d be legally required to say who was driving, or explain in some other way.

Will the Road Traffic Act clear this up for you?

Basically, a police officer can ask for your license, in which case you can either produce it immediately or within seven days at a police station of your choice. You don’t have to have it on you at the time.

Also here:

That makes sense, especially if the polices integrated data system gives a picture of the driver as well as an address. Our police are a mixed bag, since some of them are state police, some are county police and some are town or city police…all with varying degrees of data access (a lot of them still radio in to dispatch with the license plate info).


So do you believe me now? :smiley:

(Just joking).

Presumably the license plate only gives them details about the car’s owner (who may not be the driver), though, right?


They can ask for your name, etc.

Of course, if they have reasonable suspicion (what you guys, I think, call “probably cause”) that you have stolen the car, they’ll likely be arresting you anyway, which renders the whole point moot.

And it’s an offence to refuse to say who was driving

yeah. UK is so small that everyone is on the same datebase. It doesn’t give pictures though (yet)

Was just asking for clarification, mate. :slight_smile: It’s different than here (obviously), and probably evolved that way in both places because it’s a very different environment. Possibly your police technology is also better or at least more consistent than ours…and possibly your population is less cantankerous than ours is. :wink: Or, possibly our system is more paranoid. Or, perhaps our cops like to work less and put more of the work on the driver being stopped by requiring them to have their ID with them (making it easier to check up on them). No idea. At any rate, it’s interesting to me which is the real reason I asked. I’ve been to various places in the UK and this subject never came up, so I had no idea.

I appreciate all the comments and such!


It records who is the ‘Registered Keeper’ - who is not necessarily the same as the owner. Might be owned by another man, or by a body corporate.
Strictly speaking, if you fail to produce your licence at the roadside you commit an offence, but they normally give you seven days to produce it at the police station of your choice.
The courts have held (*Brown v. Stott, [2001] *2 All E.R. 97) that the right to silence was not absolute, and needed to be balanced against the public interest in preventing drunken driving.

Cheers for clearing up the time limit. I’ve only ever had one and that was when I reported a hit and run driver who knocked me off my motor bike. The driver had foreign plates so the police did nothing apart from giving me a producer notice!

I nominated a police station near my office only to discover that it had been closed down when I got there. So I just went into a different station and explained the problem and they sorted it out on the computer. So you don’t even have to worry too much about it being a specific station these days.