An L-plate is a square plate bearing a sans-serif letter L, for "learner", which must be affixed to the front and back of a car in many countries if its driver is a learner under instruction.

Drivers under instruction

Additional restrictions may be imposed upon drivers with a learner's licence. In Northern Ireland displaying an L-plate restricts the driver to a maximum speed of . In Spain and Australia (in the states New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania), displaying an L-plate restricts the driver's speed to . In Britain, learner drivers are not allowed to use motorway class roads.

The signs may be magnetic, made of sticky-back plastic, electrostatic or affixed with suction caps. They can be bought at motoring supply shops and petrol stations. Cars belonging to driving schools often have signs attached to the roof identifying and advertising the school. These signs also carry the required L-plates.

L-plates are a familiar part of popular culture, and are often jokingly used or referred to in settings analogous to driving tests, such as ordinations, stag nights, etc. As a crossword abbreviation, the word "student" or "learner" often refers to the letter L.

Newly qualified drivers


In Australia the rules vary from state to state, a new driver holds a Learner licence/permit which has a minimum age of 16. This must then be held for a certain amount of time before a driving examination can be undertaken at 17 or 18, after passing the driver must display 'P' Plates. Holders of a provisional/probationary licence may be restricted compared to fully licensed drivers in speed, blood alcohol limits, limits on the type and power of their car's engine (i.e, no more than 6 cylinders, no forced induction), and number of demerit points that can be deducted.

In all states, newly licenced drivers are required by law to display P-plates for varying lengths of time. The P is usually a red letter on a white background or a white letter on a red background (Victoria only). In New South Wales there are two classes of provisional licence, red P-plates are for the first year after passing the Learner test and then after passing a computerised test they are green for two years. On July 1, 2008 Victoria introduced the same scheme, but standard P-Plates are a white P on a red background, then white P on a green background for an extra year.

As of July 2007, newly issued Queensland drivers licences have new restrictions for those under 25. Learners must first log 100 hours of driving experience (of which 10 must be undertaken at night) before taking their practical driving examination. Learners can boost this experience by taking professional lessons which counts for 3 times the hours, for up to 10 hours (or 30 logbook hours.) After a period of one year provisional drivers must then pass a hazard-perception test to move from red to green P-Plates. New restrictions also prevent any under-25, Queensland provisional licence-holder from carrying more than one passenger under the age of 21, who is not an immediate family member, between the hours of 11pm and 5am.

Speed limits

L-platers and the Red and Green P-platers are restricted in some states to a maximum speed of 80/90/100 km/h respectively, and these values are shown on the respective plates.


In British Columbia, following the instructional phase and after passing a road test, new drivers are required to show a green "N" (for novice) plate until they have passed an additional road test, usually after 24 months.

United Kingdom

After learners in Great Britain pass their driving test, they may opt to display green P-plates (for "probationary") to show their lack of experience; this is entirely voluntary however. Some new drivers use green L plates (the pre-test colour being red), however as the L usually stands for Learner it is more common to use P Plates.

In Northern Ireland for one year after the passing of a driving test, the driver is defined as a "restricted driver" who must not exceed 45 mph and must display an "R-plate" consisting of an amber sans-serif R on a white background. L-plates in Northern Ireland commonly have an R-plate as a reverse side. "R-plate" drivers are often viewed as a nuisance on motorways, due to their limited speed, resulting in many restricted drivers not displaying their "R-plates" or not keeping to the restricted speed limit.

Isle of Man

In the Isle of Man for one year, an "R-plate" must be shown after passing the driving test. Restricted to 50 mph on usually un-restricted Manx roads. Like Northern Ireland, the R plate is a Red R on a white plate. A licence can be obtained at 17 on the island and during the provisional licence (can be obtained at 16) a L plate must be shown like Ireland and UK

Republic of Ireland

In the Republic of Ireland, you can obtain a learners permit at the age of 17. Before applying for your first learners permit you must pass a computerized Driver Theory Test. When driving on a learners permit, you must display L-plates (one front, and one rear) and be accompanied by a driver who has held a full license for at least two years. These laws were not routinely enforced by the Gardaí (Police), however from June 30th 2008 all learner drivers, including those on legacy provisional licensees, face a fine of €1,000 for a first offence and €2,000 for a second. Similar penalties apply for not displaying L-plates.

A learners permit is valid for two years, and will be renewed once without the holder having sat a driving test. After this, proof of having applied for a test is required for further renewal. A permit holder may not sit a test for at least six months after receiving their permit.

Prior to October 2007, a "provisional license" was issued which had more lax restrictions - on its first renewal, the holder could drive unaccompanied (but must continue to display L plates), and the accompanying driver did not need any experience, just a full license. The third or further renewals of the license - e.g. after failing a test and the expiry of your second license - brought back the accompaniment requirement. This unusual arrangement led to a situation where a learner driver, having failed their driving test on a 2nd Provisional, could legally drive away from the test center unaccompanied.

Prior to December 2007 an L-plate was not required for motorcyclists. A fluorescent tadbard displaying an 'L' on the rear is now required for motorcyclists using a provisional licence or learner permit.

The new measures were brought in in an effort to improve road safety, and will be followed by the introduction of 'tiered licensing', with harsher rules applying to those holding a full license for less than two years. However, the changes were not retroactive and there are still large quantities of holders of the original provisional licenses on the roads.

Similar plates

Elsewhere in the world, varying designs are used. In Germany, a usually red plate displaying the word Fahrschule (driving school) is placed on the vehicles during instruction. In Sweden, the plate is green with the text Övningskör (driving practice). In Czechoslovakia, white L on blue field, similar to Swiss one, had been used, but many driving schools ceased from this recently, rather tagging their cars with letters "Autoškola" what means "Car School" or, if you wish, "Driving School".

Plate Designs


External links

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