"N" Drivers Forever!

N Drivers SignDoes a novice driver have to take the test to become a fully licensed class 5 driver? While there is a limited time that a novice must remain in the Graduated Licensing Program there is currently no limit on the other end of the scale. "N" drivers forever!

Of course, remaining an "N" driver comes at a cost. You must abide by all of the restrictions listed on the back of your licence.

Displaying the "N" Drivers Sign

Being a novice means displaying an N sign prominently on the rear of any vehicle that you drive. This includes vehicles that you drive for work purposes, even if they are owned by the company you work for.

No Electronic Devices

Cell phones, hands free or not, are forbidden for you to use. Ditto the GPS whether it is on your cell phone or part of the vehicle dashboard.

Zero Blood Alcohol

The rules regarding impairing substances have changed recently. In addition to having a zero blood alcohol level when driving, a novice must not have cocaine or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their body either. The Draeger Drugtest 5000 is approved for roadside screening to determine whether the driver is under the influence of marihuana or cocaine while driving or not.

Passenger Restrictions

There are passenger restrictions too. "N" drivers may only carry one passenger. This restriction does not apply if the passengers are family members or the novice is accompanied by a properly licensed supervisor who is at least 25 years old and is not a learner or novice driver.

More Sanctions

Novice drivers are also subject to stricter sanctions in RoadSafetyBC's Driver Improvement Program. The chances of being prohibited from driving for a period of time if you receive a traffic ticket occur much sooner than they would for a full privilege driver.

You Can Drive Outside of BC

Novices are allowed to drive outside of the province of BC as long as they follow the restrictions on their licence just as they would have to here in BC. Penalties for failing to do so are set by the province or state that the novice is driving in.

Don't Worry About It

So, instead of worrying about the driver who has chosen not to test for their full privilege licence and remain a novice, perhaps we should admire them. They've decided to subject themselves to tighter sanctions than the rest of us when they drive. That is, until they face a driving prohibition after receiving a traffic ticket. Now there is incentive to test for full privilege licence and escape the sanctions of the Driver Improvement Program.

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Wonder if there is any difference between rural and city?

Passenger restrictions for rural young drivers is a major consideration. When there is no public transit and taxi fares are expensive this become a major consideration. I know high school kids that work at the local mill on the weekends and being able to have only one passenger eliminates car pooling. Same for any activity. You have 3 cars driving 150k return when one would have done.

Then there is 18 year olds that haven't even applied for their Learners.

In many ways, this cheerful acceptance of continuing to drive with all of the restrictions attached to the C7 N license was a complete surprise to ICBC. When they first announced some time in advance that graduated licensing was going to be introduced (it came into effect in August 1998) it seemed that every potentially eligible teenager in the province dashed over to the license office to get their Learner License (they were lined up around the block at the ICBC offices), and those who already had it did their best to obtain a Driving Test appointment in the hope that they could get their Class 5 and be done with it.

But a key issue that came into play is that those Class 7 licensees who passed were issued, not a 2 year probationary driver license, but a 5 year driver license. And typically, drivers in the 18 to 23 year old age group have much more pressing concerns than taking on another educational challenge and undergoing another driving test.

For a while, only holding a Class 7 instead of a Class 5 was still something of a hindrance; you couldn't get a rental car, you couldn't flip your license if you moved to another province, and many companies wouldn't hire you for a position that would require you to drive their vehicles. But gradually, all of these barriers seem to have been removed or accommodated so provided that the driver doesn't want to upgrade to a Class 1, 2, 3 or 4 then they're simply not incentivized to obtain their Class 5, so that's where we're at 20 years later.

In fact, in the current era, there are many 16+ year olds who don't feel at all compelled to obtain their driver license at all - and the drawbacks to this aren't necessarily understood. If you don't own a car and don't see yourself being able to afford one, then being able to start your way toward obtaining a discount on your vehicle insurance is essentially meaningless. And the whole idea of being able to qualify for a professional license (such as for certain jobs) doesn't even register as a potential difficulty.


On my novice license card, it shows that the earliest I could take my Class 5 road test was 2020-Oct-26. Unfortunately, due to the delays resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, I still have not been able to take the road test. I am sure there are many individuals like me that could not take their road test because of pandemic-related delays and backlogs, and got lumped in with individuals who decide to remain a novice driver indefinitely.

No doubt about it, Covid made it much more of a challenge; ICBC introduced an appointment system for driver license services (including Knowledge Tests) whilst also endeavouring to provide commercial testing as something of a priority, due to the impact on employment and the economy in general. Their whole goal being to limit the number of people in any license office, according to health guidelines. In recent months though, many of the license offices have expanded their hours and increasing the number of 'standby' tests available for both Class 5 & 7 testing.

The fact is, our provincial population is expanding; more teenagers becoming eligible for licenses, with more commercial driving jobs becoming available throughout the province. Heck, they're introducing an 8-digit license system, which was never before needed.

Yet remarkably, despite Covid, in 2022 ICBC actually provided more driving test appointments than at any time in history!

Their biggest problem is that there are too many applicants who are ill-prepared for the simple test (Knowledge and/or Road Test) particularly with the Class 5 & 7 classes. This high fail rate results in more demand on the system (it's the reason why those who fail either test will face a longer time delay before being eligible to try again).