The requirement to display N Plates on your vehicle came into law from 1st August 2014. It means that any person who gets their first ever full drivers licence on or after 1st August 2014 must display the N Plates for a two year period. This law was introduced as part of the governments Graduated Driver Licensing program and follows on from other reforms such as the closing of the learner permit loophole, compulsory lessons, restructuring of driving instructors registration and other driving reforms that were designed to make the roads safer and encourage more responsible motoring.
N Plates do not have to be displayed by a person if they have a full licence in another category. There is also no requirement to display the N Plates if you have held a full licence before 1st August 2014, even if the licence is not yet two years old. The same applies for an automatic vehicle, so if you have a full licence in an automatic before 1st August 2014 you do not have to use the N Plates to drive either an automatic or manual car.
An N Plate driver will be subject to a lower blood alcohol limit of 20mg per 100ml of blood and the N Plate driver will face disqualification if they equal or exceed 7 penalty points instead of the usual 12. However if the driver has a learner permit from any category issued before 1st August 2014, they will not be subject to the lower 7 penalty points threshold. The 7 penalty point threshold only applies to a learner permit issued on or after 1st August 2014.
Figures show that younger, more inexperienced drivers are much more likely to be involved in a crash than someone more experienced. The idea of the N Plates is to place some modest restrictions on a newly qualified drivers to encourage them to show respect for themselves, their vehicle and other road users. It normally takes up to 100,000 km of driving to say you are a fully competent driver, and this N Plate framework is intended to act like a bridge to being such a fully competent driver. It's important to note that the newly qualified N driver can still drive unaccompanied and can drive on motorways.