ICBC’s L & N Driver Restrictions – Need Some Clarity? Look No Further

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BC Restrictions for New & Learner Drivers

ICBC gives the gift of a lot of L & N driver restrictions. These are in place for both class 7L ‘learner drivers‘ and class 7N ‘new drivers,’ each with their own set of rules and restrictions.

These restrictions are in place to keep inexperienced drivers as safe as possible.

To do this, ICBC had to try and reduce the amount of distractions for the driver.

Multiple studies have found that new drivers crash much more when their friends are in the vehicle with them.

new driver car crash

That’s why you’ll notice some pretty stringent requirements in the passenger restriction sections.

So, let’s go through this. We will discuss the ‘L’ or Learner rules. Then we will move onto the ‘N’ New driver rules. But first, let’s go through a few of the similarities for both the 7L and the 7N licenses.

L & N Driver Restrictions: Electronic Devices

For both ‘L’ & ‘N’

  • No hand-held cellphones or other electronic devices
  • No hands-free cellphones or other electronic devices
  • Do not touch, operate, hold or adjust your phone
  • Bluetooth with wireless headset is not allowed
  • Using speakerphone that can be operated with one touch or voice commands is not allowed
  • Do not program a GPS system
  • You can not select music from your cellphone
  • Do not wear earbuds
  • Connecting your cellphone or hand-held device to play music on your in-vehicle audio system is not allowed

*Keep in mind, these laws are for when you are driving.

It’s okay if you want to safely pull over and park, and then connect your music for example. Just do not even think about touching any of the above while driving.

These laws are in effect even when you’re stopped at a red light, or stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

L N Electronic Devices Laws

Distracted Driving Fines and Penalty Points

The fines for distracted driving are not cheap these days. One ticket costs $368 and 4 points; total $620. If you aren’t familiar with points, they are a bad thing, and add an additional charge on top of your fine.

​Motor Vehicle Act sectionDescriptionFinePoint level
214.2 (1)Using electronic device while driving$3684
214.2 (2)Emailing or texting while driving$3684
  • Four points costs $252
  • 50 points will cost you $34,560

You must Prominently Display the official ‘L’ or ‘N’ sign

display L and N sign
  • Your ‘L’ or ‘N’ sign needs to be clearly visible. If you try and hide it half behind your license plate, you might find yourself in trouble.
  • It is supposed to let drivers around you know to be a little more patient.
  • If you’re driving a trailer, put the ‘L’ or ‘N’ sign on the back of the trailer; not on the back of the vehicle.
N sign on trailer

Remember the whole point of it is for other people to actually see it.

If you’re going for driving lessons with a driving school, you don’t need to put the L or N sign on the car.

That’s because driving school cars are required to have big signs saying ‘student driver’ attached to the back of the car for people to see. You can always add the sign if you like.

L & N Driver Restrictions Zero Drugs & alcohol

For both L and N drivers, there is a strict zero alcohol tolerance law.

Class 7 zero alcohol

Driving In the USA and Across Canada

Both N and L drivers are allowed to drive across Canada & in the U.S. Just make sure to adhere to the same restrictions displayed on the back of your license.

L and N driver USA and Canada

When in Rome…. I mean, when in the USA, do as the Canadians do. If you do get pulled over, police will be able to see your restrictions.

Driving On The Highway/Freeway

Yes, you can drive on the highway & freeway with your L and N. The only exception being if it indicates you aren’t permitted on the back of your license.

L and New driver on freeway

What Vehicles Can New Drivers Operate?

Class 5 or 7 (novice L & N) licence holders are allowed to operate passenger vehicles that have 2 axles, such as:

  • Cars & vans
  • Construction & utility vehicles (2 axle max)
  • Light trucks
  • Limited-speed motorcycles or ATV’s (all terrain vehicle)
  • Any motor home (may exceed 2 axles) not equipped with air brakes
  • 3-wheeled vehicles; does not include 3-wheeled motorcycles (trikes) or motorcycle/sidecar combinations

Can A New Driver Tow A Trailer?

New drivers (Class 7 L & N) are allowed to tow a trailer that weighs up to a maximum 4,600 kg GVW (gross vehicle weight).

GVW is the combined weight of your trailer and its load.

Say a trailer weighs 4,000 kg when empty. You can tow the trailer with a Class 4, 5 or 7 (novice) driver’s licence.


Just be careful, because after you load the trailer with loot, the GVW might exceed 4,600 kg. So do ‘watch your weight’ especially if you’re packing your collection of designer marble counter tops.

Can A New Driver Rent A U-Haul?

U-Haul requires that renters be at least 16 years old to rent a trailer, and 18 years old to rent trucks. You do not need a special driver’s license to rent a U-Haul, since they are not classified as commercial vehicles.

According to U-Haul, learner drivers are not able to drive. However, new drivers are able to rent and drive U-Hauls.

Any license which grants ability to drive without supervision will work. Learner’s permits are not acceptable.

U-Haul

Class 7L Learner Restrictions 

A Learner is a new driver who has either never driven before, or has driven a small amount, or infrequently enough to be needing another Learner’s license.

These are the most inexperienced drivers. Passing the knowledge test with ICBC. – which includes a road signs test – is required to ‘get the L.’

Learner Driver Restrictions: Your Required Supervisor

When you have your ‘L’

  • Your supervisor must be at least 25 years or older (or any age if they are a licensed driving instructor)
  • The supervisor must hold a valid driver’s license, other than a learner’s license or Class 7, of a class that permits operation of the motor vehicle category
  • Must sit in the front seat beside the driver

Hopefully your supervisor is not quite as serious as this guy… —>

new driver supervisor

No offense to ‘the guy,’ whoever you are. Loving that smouldering intensity sh%# right there.

New Driver ‘L’ Restrictions: Permitted Driving Hours

ICBC permits you to drive between 5 am and midnight only, with the L.

ICBC L driving hours

Length of ‘L’ Phase

This ‘L’ stage lasts for at least 12 months, after which time you can take your ‘N’ Road Test.

ICBC has set the ‘L’ driver’s license to be valid for 2 years. You can renew it by re-taking the knowledge test, if it does expire.

Maximum 3 People in the Car in Total Including the Driver

ICBC max 3 people in car

Learner drivers can only have 2 passengers in the car, maximum.

The only people allowed in the car are:

  • The driver
  • The supervisor
  • The optional other passenger
passenger restrictions

Class 7 – N Driver Restrictions

What is this, you ask? A new driver is a human who has passed their very first road test. Not necessarily on the first try. See what I did there?

So, they will have driven with somebody for at least a little while. That somebody may have been a family member, friend, or a driving instructor.

As soon as they get their ‘N’, they may drive alone for the first time in their life. Ah, freedom.

There is no road signs test to get your ‘N’ per se, but the examiner will be able to tell if you see and know your road signs while you are driving.

‘N’ Passenger Restrictions

Passenger Restrictions – N Driver Restrictions

You can only take 1 passenger in this stage, unless they are your immediate family members, or, if you have a supervisor with you.

If you so desire, you can fill up your vehicle with family members, as long as they all have a seat belt.

Additionally, you may also drive with as many people as you have seat-belts for, if you have a supervisor with you.

The supervisor must be the usual supervisor: aged 25 years or older, with a valid class 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 driver’s license. They need to sit beside you in the front seat.

Immediate Family Members Definition

What counts as immediate family members? Immediate family means

  • Parents
  • Children
  • Spouse
  • Brothers
  • Sisters
  • Grandparents
  • Step-parent
  • Step-grandparent
  • Step-child
  • Step-brother
  • Step-sister
  • Foster-parent
  • Foster-grandparent
  • Foster-child
  • Foster-grandchild
  • Foster-brother
  • Foster-sister

Spouse Definition for ICBC Restrictions

ICBC spouse definition

What counts as a spouse?

A spouse is defined as someone who was married to another person at ‘the relevant time’ or who was living for minimum 2 years or longer immediately before the ‘relevant time’ in a marriage-like relationship.

This includes marriage-like relationships between people of the same gender identity.

Length of Time in ‘N’ stage

N stage time

Part of the N driver restrictions includes the amount of time in this stage. This stage must last for at least 24 months (2 years), unless you have successfully completed a GLP driver education program.

In that case, your 24 months can be reduced to 18 months.

If your license is suspended, cancelled, expired, or surrendered, you must wait longer to qualify for a full privileged driver’s license.

Once your license is reinstated, your 24 months will start over from the beginning.

Time of day ICBC ‘N’ Driver Restrictions?

There are no time restrictions – you may drive whenever you like, as long as you’re following all of your restrictions.

What Are Your Particular new driver Restrictions?

FYI: Your customized restrictions are printed on the back of your drivers license. You may or may not need a magnifying glass in order to read them.

new driver restrictions license

Read about the graduated licensing program on the ICBC website.

ICBC FAQ’s (Can I drive outside of BC with my L or N)


‘N’ Novice Driver Passenger Restrictions 

New drivers can only have ONE passenger as per their new driver restrictions…

n driver restrictions friends

…Immediate family members are exempt from the rule

These new driver restrictions may be annoying and inconvenient and uncool But, they aren’t forever.

ICBC passenger restrictions

That means you can fill up your car with immediate family members and you can still have ONE friend (or non-immediate family member)

new driver restrictions

You can also fill up your car with any kind of people you want IF you have a qualified supervisor with a full license class 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5

N supervisor N driver restrictions

N Driver Restrictions: You are not allowed to drive with TWO friends

Sorry… You can only have ONE friend. Friends are nice, but have been proven to be very distracting for new drivers.

ICBC has found that new drivers who drive around with friends in their vehicle are much more likely to crash. And unfortunately, some people’s friends have been lost this way.

ICBC L N Passengers N driver restrictions

You can not drive with one friend plus another person who is NOT an immediate family as defined by ICBC above 

ICBC N driver restrictions

Remember the reason that these restrictions are in place are to keep people safe. New drivers are more likely to have a crash when compared with experienced drivers, even without distractions. 

Does ICBC Check The 60-Hour Log?

It’s highly recommended that new drivers drive for at least 60 hours before attempting their first road test.

But no, ICBC does not check your ’60 hour log;’ Which is/was a paper form to keep track of your practicing hours.

Can I Buy A Car In BC With My ‘L’ License?

Yes yes you can, you can buy and insure a car, just follow the restrictions on your license as usual. Make sure you have a supervisor when you are driving it, display your L sign, etc. etc., etc.

can I buy a car with my L n driver restrictions

There Is a Pulse In Your Thumb

Okay this is just slightly random, but I thought I’d throw it in here for good luck. Avoid checking someone’s pulse with your thumb. Your thumb has its own.

Can a New Driver Drive With a Baby in British Columbia?

Yes, just be sure to follow your passenger restrictions. Immediate family members are exempt from the one-passenger restriction in the ‘N’ stage.

Read about car seats on Transport Canada: Child safety car seats

The safest place for a car seat is in the rear, middle seat, as it is farthest away from potential airbags and impact.

Lost Your L or N Sign?

If you lost your L or N sign, you have a few options. You could download and print this N sign right here, or this L sign here, and attach to your vehicle making sure it’s clearly visible.

Unfortunately, it’s not allowed to make your own sign.

Otherwise, you will need to visit ICBC. Check ahead of time as many locations are only allowing appointments, and no walk-in for anything. Thanks Covid.

Question: Is It Illegal To Keep An “N” Or “L” On The Back Of A Vehicle All The Time Even If The Driver Is Not In The Learners Or New Category?

Answer From The VPD (Vancouver Police Department) Via Email:

                The simple answer is “ no “it is not illegal, but keep in mind that you may be stopped if you are the lone occupant of the vehicle driving while displaying an “L” sign. The “L” sign requires the driver to be accompanied by a qualified supervisor. If an officer sees a vehicle operated by a lone individual while displaying an “L” sign the officer will more than likely stop the vehicle to ascertain if he/she is contravening the licence restrictions.

Read More: Distracted Driving – Province of British Columbia

Reference: Get Your N – ICBC




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709 thoughts on “ICBC’s L & N Driver Restrictions – Need Some Clarity? Look No Further”

  1. Can a novice driver drive with full passenger (not immediate family) with a supervisor that has international license equivalent to class 5?

  2. Can a novice driver drive with adults, over 25 years of age, not related, with valid BCDL, if the passengers have consumed alchohol?

  3. If i have had my N for more than 24 month, but a clean driving record, how long can i keep my N without taking the class 5 road test before it expires?

    1. If you’re not ready for the class 5 road test you can simply go to ICBC and renew your N license ..

      if you leave the N expired for a while then it gets more complicated, I forget but I’ll look it up

    2. Hi again, Your license will let you know the date of expiry on the license itself. After that, you can simply renew the N at ICBC. If you do not renew it, I’m not sure how long you can keep it around before you would have to do another road test. Hope that made sense!

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