The legal age for driving a car in Britain is 17, although you can apply for a provisional licence at 15 and nine months.
Meanwhile, 16 year olds can ride mopeds and some mobility patients are allowed to drive cars from the same age.
But new data, harvested via a Freedom of the Information request to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) by leading automotive company Select Car Leasing, shows police have caught kids as young as eight – both male and female – driving on public roads.
The latest available figures provided by the government agency stretch as far back as the start of 2018 and include stats up to June 12 this year. They show the number of young people under the age of 17 who have been disqualified from driving and the country in which they live.
The youngest person prosecuted in the first half of this year was an 11-year-old male in England.
But in both 2018 and 2019 there were up to five boys nicked in charge of a vehicle aged just eight. And in 2019 there were also up to five girls of the same age disqualified.
The DVLA does not give a precise number if the figure is below five because it “could lead to the identification of individuals”. The overall figures show there were far more males than females caught driving while under 17. For both genders it was 16 year olds, just months shy of gaining a provisional licence, who were the worst offenders.
From the start of 2018 up to June 12 this year, a whopping 6,114 males aged 16 were disqualified compared to just 192 females.
Other troubling figures showed there were up to five 11-year-old boys disqualified in England for each of the years in question, while a staggering 48 boys aged 12 fell foul of the law for driving across the same time period.
But the good news for road safety is that the number of offenders is dropping.
There were 3,512 drivers under 17 disqualified in 2018, which increased slightly to 3,541 in 2019. That dipped last year to 2,981, influenced by the Covid lockdown restrictions that kept people in their homes for months. In the first half of this year there were only 259 offenders.
Graham Conway, managing director of leading leasing firm Select Car Leasing who submitted the FOI request, said: “These figures are hugely worrying for anyone who legally ventures onto the roads.
“Not only are these underage motorists driving without a licence, they also have no insurance and obviously a complete lack of training and practice required to safely take charge of a vehicle. They are therefore putting the lives of many people in danger – other drivers and passengers, plus pedestrians who could be involved in serious incidents if things go badly wrong. Even more worrying is the fact that this data is only for those who have been caught. There are bound to be many more underage drivers who undertake this potentially lethal pursuit and have so far escaped prosecution.”
UK courts have the power to disqualify those legally too young to drive.
A spokesman for the DVLA said:
“Non-licence holders disqualified by a court are dealt with in the same way as GB driving licence holders. In such cases a non-licence holder record is set up so that the offence can be recorded. Once the disqualification period has expired, the individual, on reaching the legal age to obtain a driving licence, may apply to do so."
“Any licence issued will show the details of any current endorsements.”
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