Thousands of drivers face fines of up to £1000

From The Times

February 16, 2009




Thousands of drivers with photo



licence  face fines of up to £1,000





Ben Webster, Transport Correspondent


More than 40,000 drivers risk fines of up to £1,000 because they have failed to renew their photocard driving licences.

Many will not have realised that photocards expire after ten years, unlike the old green paper licences, which were valid until the driver was 70. Drivers risk prosecution if stopped by police and may also find that their insurers refuse to pay out on claims they make.

The problem has only emerged in recent months because photocards were first issued in 1998. The first renewals were due in July last year, and between then and the end of January 173,867 photocards expired.

Figures obtained by The Times from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) show that only 128,987 of those drivers have paid £17.50 and sent in new photos to renew their licences, leaving 44,880 outstanding. Some of those drivers will have died or stopped driving, but the vast majority will have failed to notice the small print on their photocards showing the expiry date.

The date is listed on the photocard under “4b”. To find out what this means, a driver would have to turn the card over and study even smaller print in an explanatory list, which says “4b licence valid to”.

To add to the confusion, the photocard also shows another “to” date, the day before the driver’s 70th birthday. On a standard car licence, this date is listed seven times beside different categories of vehicle, and a driver might assume the photocard is valid until then.

The DVLA said that more than a quarter of drivers due to renew their photocards had not done so, despite being sent reminders. At that rate, more than a quarter of a million drivers could be risking prosecution by the end of the year.

A DVLA spokesman said that drivers who failed to renew their licences “are still entitled to drive but are potentially committing the offence of failing to surrender their licence. Conviction by a court could lead to a fine of up to £1,000.” He added that the ten-year renewal was necessary because faces changed.

The Association of British Insurers said that drivers with out-of-date photocards might not be covered for claims. A spokesman said: “It’s probably going to be a case of insurers looking at each case on its merits. If you can show you made efforts to renew your licence that would probably mean the claim is OK. But potentially there could be an issue if you claim on your own policy.”

He said that drivers would still be covered for third party claims even if their photocards had expired.

Edmund King, president of the AA, said the DVLA had not done enough to inform drivers of the need to renew photocards. “Even if the reminder is sent to the right address, drivers may think it is a piece of junk mail because they assume their licence is valid until they are 70.”

Mr King added that photocards should be redesigned to make the expiry date clearer. He also called on the Government to consider an advertising campaign to inform the public about the issue.

With paper-only licences being phased out, the DVLA will earn more than £20 million a year from drivers renewing their photocards.

Mr King said that it should not cost £17.50 to change a photo when changes of name and address on a driving licence were free.

“This is expensive bureaucracy and, with passports and the introduction of ID cards, there is wasteful duplication. We would also question whether people’s appearances change that dramatically every ten years. Photocards for public transport can be much older than ten years, so why should drivers be saddled with the cost and inconvenience of renewal?”

Lifetime cost of ID

— £1,008.50 total (given age of 87 and opting for passport/ID card package)

£50 for full driving licence, then £17.50 torenewevery ten years

— £72 for adult passport, then £72 to renew every ten years. Child passport £46, renewal £46

— £30 every ten years for ID card or £93 for a passport/ID card package