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History of driver licensing

Driver licences were first introduced in Britain by the Motor Car Act, 1903, purely as a means of identifying vehicles and their drivers. 

All motor vehicles had to be registered, display registration marks and be licensed annually at a cost of 20 shillings (£1). 

The fee for the first driving licence, which was obtained over the counter at Post Offices, was five shillings (25p). 

Failure to sign your driving licence with your ‘ordinary signature’ could lead to a fine of up to £5.

In 1921 there were only 1 million drivers in Britain. By 1939 this figure had risen to 3 million. But it was only during the 1960s, when cars became more affordable, that motoring really took off. 

In 1973 the number of drivers had risen to about 20 million and a centralised computer-based licensing system was brought in to cope with the huge increase in demand for both driver and vehicle licences.

YearVehicles on the road
19342,400,000
19595,000,000
197015,000,000
198320,000,000
200330,000,000+
200834,000,000+