What are P Plates and When to Use Them

In the UK, green P plates can be used on a voluntary basis by drivers that have just passed the driving test. Unlike L-plates, it is not a legal requirement for the driver to display them on their vehicle.

What do P plates stand for?

The ‘probationary’ plates or P plates as they are commonly referred to allow other vehicles on the road to acknowledge that a driver has only just passed the practical driving test and although technically they should be up to test standard, they should be provided with extra time and space in the course of driving to allow for any mistakes made.

A young newly qualified driver is 30% more likely to have an accident compared to drivers with a year or more experience.

UK P plate law

In certain countries, P plates are compulsory, however in England, Scotland and Wales, there is no law or legal requirement stating the compulsory use of P-plates. It is entirely the drivers decision whether they wish to use them or not.

If a driver does decide to use P plates, there is no law stating the duration in which the plates can be displayed. The driver can use them for as long as they wish and until they feel confident enough to remove them.

P Plates
Voluntary UK green P Plates

P plate requirements

The only requirements for the use of green P plates in the UK is that a driver must have passed the UK practical driving test. They are not by law required to use them.

P plate rules

P plates if used, should be placed one at the front and one at the rear of the vehicle in a conspicuous location. Unlike L plates however, there are no current enforceable penalties for using the incorrect size, incorrectly placed or defaced plates.

Displaying P plates, a good idea?

P plates like L plates are used to inform vehicles that a driver has limited experience on the road and may be prone to making mistakes. Drivers reaction to P plates however is often quite different to those displaying L plates.

Although a driver displaying L plates will have slightly less experience than that of P plates, other vehicles know that there is likely an experienced driving instructor sitting next to them with dual controls that has ultimate control on any given situation. As a result, L plate learners often receive a pretty hard time off other vehicles impatiently trying to get past or hurry them along. Sometimes to such an extent, that many driving instructors often think it would in fact be safer not to display L plates at all.

P plate holders often receive a much more lenient attitude towards them however. As with L plate holders, they have very limited experience, but are significantly more vulnerable as they are solely in charge of the vehicle. Other drivers know this and are therefore less likely to bully them due to the possibility of pushing them into making a mistake and potentially causing an accident.

So yes, displaying P plates is a good idea and should be displayed for as long as is necessary to become a confident driver.

P plate drivers

P plate drivers are significantly more vulnerable than learner drivers as they have very little experience and are completely left to their own devices. Pushing a P plate driver to hurry is likely to stress them and increase the potential of an accident. Upon acknowledging a P plate driver, provide them with a greater following distance and more time to react at junctions and roundabouts.

Further information related to P plates

27 thoughts on “What are P Plates and When to Use Them”

  1. Gary

    I give L drivers the space they need. But P plates, well if you don’t feel confident driving hand your licence back and do
    Us all a favour.

  2. kamveets

    What a silly thing to say. Just because you have passed your test, it doesn’t mean you are suddenly a perfect driver.

    Learning to drive is like learning a language, just because you’ve passed your GCSE French and can order a coffee and ask for directions to the nearest métro, it doesn’t mean you can debate the benefits and drawbacks of Frexit in the language of Voltaire.

  3. Malcolm

    It was a long time ago but I kept my P plates on for about two weeks before throwing them away.

    Reason? Other drivers don’t trust you and will take the P (pun intentded 😉 ) and overtake/undertake you because you are perceived as being slow and inexperienced.

    The only thing they were useful for, was some drivers would tolerate you being a bit crappy at parking.

  4. I think unfortunately your experience is becoming more commonplace with drivers less patient these days.

  5. Whaddacun T

    What a surprise, Gary – the ignorant egomaniac

  6. Jon

    P plates are for those of u who are considerate and remember how it is to be a learner.
    There will still be lots of ignorant selfish people who will ignore or bully their way around the roads.
    The sticker I will be producing for my kids (one has just passed) will be a “BLACK BOX FITTED – PLEASE BE PATIENT”.
    The BB is the all seeing all knowing tell tale machine. If she passes a school at more than 20mph she is penalised for it and will end up paying more insurance next year.
    Just remember we were all learners and all terrible. We all know the macho ‘know it all’ attitude is insecutity and it is nothing to be ashamed about.

    Why not find a P plater and let them out of a juntion with a smile. Liberating and kind.

    Sorry all for the length of this email but a button was pushed.

  7. Jean Taylor

    I’m not sure whether or not to display the P plates. I’m older & a nervous driver can’t decide???

  8. Hello Jean,
    Personally, I would put the P plates on your car and see how it goes. Using them may give you a little more confidence being as you’re telling other drivers that you’re an inexperienced driver. You should generally find that most drivers will give you a little more time and space. There are a few fools on the roads though and they might try and intentionally stress you, but it’s always best just to totally ignore them (they get bored and give up when they see their actions are having no effect).

  9. Jean Taylor

    Thanks for your advice, will use them as you explained. Thanks for the advice

  10. Gael

    As an long term driver Not used to driving out of known local areas would it be permissible to use a P plate to make a journey further afield into areas not driven before. I am not lacking in actual driving confidence but get nervous driving in uncharted areas where l need to find my direction without being directed by other drivers, back to question, would you be allowed a P plate under that scenario (not a new driver but a new unknown territory) and, would it help

  11. Hello Gael,
    Unlike L plates, there’s no regulation for P plates, so yes, you can use them as you wish, even if you are not recently qualified. P plates are of course intended to be used by newly qualified drivers, but as there’s no law stating that you cannot use them at any time, then it’s really up to you. You may notice that some drivers will give you a little more room and be a little more patient whist displaying P plates. Give them a try and see if they help.

  12. sidra

    love it !

  13. Shaz

    Totally agree with you well said . My daughter just passed her driving test, I’ve got her a black box and p plate.

  14. Gary Hall

    Good man👍

  15. Karina

    Maybe you were a star when you started to drive !!!!! Idiot’s star !!!! How can you say something like this ?????? Everyone needs to learn , but sorry again , you knew how to drive from your mother’s womb !!!!!!

  16. John Roson

    I have been sitting wiyh a lady driver of 52 for about 5 months she has just passed her test she is a good driver but she understands that she is no different at driving than the day before she passed her test a very senible peson and i have advised her to put the P plate on for a while and see how things go and she agrees .

  17. Saukhya

    Really ??
    So you learnt & mastered the techniques of everyday driving the moment you passed your test AND there was no need for practice and growth ??
    Real mature… Real mature…

  18. Saukhya

    Well said Jon & it’s humans like you that make life worth living…
    Where can I get a black box (non expensive) ??

  19. John Chacko

    In reply to Gary.

    if that is your attitude on the roads, i think it would be better for all of us that you hand back your license

  20. Rhys

    Well said Gary I agree 100%. I have been on the road on numerous occasions with a P plate driver nearby, and have been left utterly bewildered as to how they ever passed their test, due to how badly they were driving. It was obvious that they were clearly not confident in driving at all. I have seen better driving from those with L plates.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I was under the impression that you only pass your test when you are able to demonstrate that you are a confident safe driver! Who’d a thought!!

  21. Michelle

    I passed my test a week ago, I decided to use p plates, the majority of drivers have been very considerate, but a small minority have been awful, pipping their horns when I have stalled my car for a second, it’s as if they don’t realise what they were like when they first passed their test. The more they pip their horn, the longer they wait, simple really, I’m not going to have someone bully me, I’m a very considerate driver, keep traffic flowing by giving way, and I’ve also seen experienced drivers stall their car but they think cos you display a p plate to warn them your new to driving they can bully you 😂, so for all the p plates, if people Are inconsiderate and impatient, just make them wait longer 😂

  22. Hi Michelle.
    Well done for passing your test.
    Unfortunately there are quite a few impatient drivers out there. It really shouldn’t bother them to be a little patient and to allow 10 seconds or so if someone stalls – whether that be a new or experienced driver. This also happens to learner drivers too. Shame that some drivers don’t think that they were once learner / new drivers.
    It’s great that you don’t allow those inconsiderate few to bully you 🙂

  23. Dave Warren

    Great test & picked up some useful tips.
    Gary obviously a big head & thinks he’s now the best driver in the world but clearly he’s just another SCREWdriver.
    P plates will be going on my car aged 51 ex motorbike rider of almost 30yrs once I’ve passed my test. In my view just gives other road user’s a head’s up to bare with me I’ll get there safely but I’m a newly qualified driver & thank you for your patience.
    Not going to be ashamed to wear my P plates for the first month or two afterwards

  24. Adam

    I passed my test in December 2021 and just took my p plates off as I’m very confident and even very experienced drivers still make mistakes

  25. Hi Adam,
    Well done for passing your test. Yes indeed, even very experienced drivers still make mistakes.

  26. I have a valid international driver license and can drive in UK for 12 months. Basically im new to the road arrangement, I was used to a left hand drive and driving to the right side of the road. Can I use P plate to drive around the country?

  27. Hello BY,
    Yes, anyone can use P plates as there is no regulation associated to them. You can attach them to your car for as long as you wish.

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