When did driving licences come into effect?
The first DRIVING LICENCES were issued to French motorists under the Paris Police Ordinance of 14 August 1893 (Rule I, Para 1), which stated: ‘No motor vehicle … can be used without a regular authorization by us on the demand of the owner. This authorization can at all times be cancelled by us, at the instigation of the engineers.’ Applicants were required to pass a driving test in order to secure authorization to drive.
Driving licences in card form were required to be carried and shown on demand by every motorist in France under a Decree of 10 March 1899 titled ‘Circulation des Automobiles’ and were issued by the Ministere des Travaux Publics as from that date. Licences had to bear the photograph of the holder and there was a space for insertion by the issuing officer of the type of vehicle the holder was authorized to drive. A total of 1.795 licences had been issued in the Paris area by 1 November 1899.
In Britain driving licences were introduced under the Motor Car Act of 14 August 1903, of which Section 3 stated: ‘The (Country Borough) Council … shall grant a licences to any person applying for it who resides in that county … on payment of a fee of five shillings.
Licences were renewable annually. Under Section 4 of the Act provision was made for endorsing or suspending the licences after a second offence, and for the disqualification of a driver at the discretion of the courts.
The age limit for car drivers was set at 17, and for motor cyclists 14. Prior to the Act no age limit had existed and the youngest owner-driver in the country was reported (January 1903) to be six-old Master Ernest Bond of Bishopston, Bristol, who rode a motor cycle specially built for him by his father.
The Motor Car Act became effective on 1 January 1904. The first 13 licences were issued by the London Country Council in December for official purposes. The first member of the public to be issued with a driving licence was Mr. Richard Cain of Bermondsey, chauffeur and bodyguard to Prince Hatzfeldt, a cousin of the Kaiser, on 28 December 1903.