kids encyclopedia robot

Driver's license facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Førerkort fremside
A driver's licence from Norway

A driver's license, driver license, driver licence, or driving licence is an official document which states that a person may drive a motorized vehicle, such as a motorcycle, car, truck, or a bus.

Laws controlling driver's licenses

Different countries have different laws as to whether or not a person can have a driver's license. In some places, a person must pass a driving test before he or she is given a driver's license, while in other places, a driving license is given before the person starts driving.

In Victoria, Australia (for example), to get a driving licence a person must:

  • be at least 18 years old
  • live in Victoria
  • pass an eye test
  • pass a Hazard Perception Test (done on a computer)
  • pass a practical Driving Test to show they can drive safely, control the car, follow road rules, and cooperate with other road users.

There are fees to be paid to do the driving tests, and if successful, there are more fees to be paid for the licence. Many people get a Learner's permit before getting a license. The first licence may be a Probationary Licence, which has certain restrictions on what a driver can do. After four years, the driver will qualify for a full, unrestricted licence.


Karl Benz Führerschein
The world's first license to drive a motor vehicle, issued to Karl Benz upon his request.

Karl Benz, inventor of the modern automobile, had to receive written permission from the Grand Ducal authorities to operate his car on public roads in 1888 after residents complained about the noise and smell of his Motorwagen. Up until the start of the 20th century, European authorities issued licenses to drive motor vehicles similarly ad hoc, if at all.

Mandatory licensing for drivers came into force on 1 January 1904 after the Motor Car Act 1903 received royal assent in the United Kingdom. Every car owner had to register their vehicle with their local government authority and be able to prove registration of their vehicle on request. The minimum qualifying age was set at 17. The licence gave its holder 'freedom of the road' with a maximum 20 mph (32 km/h) speed limit. Compulsory testing was introduced in 1934, with the passing of the Road Traffic Act.

Prussia, then a state within the German Empire, introduced compulsory licensing on September 29, 1903. A test on mechanical aptitude had to be passed and the Dampfkesselüberwachungsverein ("steam boiler supervision association") was charged with conducting these tests. 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 was adopted in other countries.

In 1909, the Convention with Respect to the International Circulation of Motor Vehicles recognize the need of qualifications, examination, and authorization for international driving.

In 1929, the notion of International Driving Permit is addressed by international Convention .

In 1977, the Convention on road traffic address the notion of driving license for a number of countries, under the wording driving permit.

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 US 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

Many countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States, have no national identification cards. As many people have driver's licenses, they are often accepted as de facto proof of identity. Most identity cards and driver's licenses are credit card size—the "ID-1" size and shape defined in ISO/IEC 7810.

Images for kids

Women's History Month on Kiddle
Women Scientists of Antiquity
Mary the Jewess
kids search engine
Driver's license Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.