What the characters on your driving licence number really mean

Ever wondered what makes up your driving licence number? It’s not simply a random collection of 16 characters – here’s what it really means…

UK driving licence example

Each driving licence holder in England, Scotland and Wales has a 16 character long, unique driver number. The characters are formulated in the following way:

  • CHARACTERS 1-5: These are the first five characters of the driver’s surname and if it’s less than five, it’s filled up with nines
  • CHARACTER 6: The decade digit from the year of birth. For example, 1993 would be 9
  • CHARACTERS 7-8: These are the month of birth, so December would be 12. For female drivers, the seventh character is incremented by a 5 – so 51-62 instead of 01-12
  • CHARACTERS 9-10: The date within the month of birth – this would be 01-31
  • CHARACTER 11: The year digit from the year of birth. For example, 1993 would be 3
  • CHARACTERS 12-13: The first two initials of the first names – if driver has no middle name, the character is replaced with a 9
  • CHARACTER 14: Random digit, typically 9
  • CHARACTERS 15-16: Two computer check digits
  • CHARACTERS 17-18: Appended, two digits representing the licence issue – increase by one for each licence issued.

There’s a lot more to be found out about yourself just by taking a look at the rest of your licence, too…

Do you know what the categories on the back of your licence are?

We’ve compiled a list of all those categories printed on your licence, so you can see what you can and can’t drive once you’ve passed your driving test, as well as what ones you’ll need to take an additional test for. Find out here

Still have a paper driving licence? Maybe it’s time to update…

If you’ve still got your pre-1998 paper driving licence, you can exchange it for a photocard licence – but don’t feel forced to do so, because paper versions remain valid and won’t need replacing every 10 years.

Find out the essential information here, including how to change to a photocard licence and if you can drive while the exchange is taking place.

Don’t risk a £1,000 fine for this simple mistake

This 10-second driving licence check could save you a £1,000 fine! Get in the know, here.


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