My practical advice for motorists is aimed at translating legislation that could affect you, your driving licence and therefore and your entitlement to drive into an easy to follow survival guide. This article deals with the little-known requirement to renew your photocard driving licence every 10 years and what happens if you don’t.
Did you know, your photocard licence is only valid for 10 years.
Photocard licence explained
Looking at your photocard driving licence, you will see numbered 1 - 3 your name, date and country of birth. Items 4a and 4b detail the valid to and from dates – just like a credit card. The remaining numbers relate to issuing authority, normally the DVLA, your driver number, signature, address and categories of vehicles you are entitled to drive which are then detailed on the back.
Number 4b is key. If this date is in the past you do not have a valid driving licence and you must not drive until your application for a new photo card licence is applied for.
Why does the photocard have to be renewed?
In 1998, when the Government introduced the requirement to hold a photocard licence in addition to the paper counterpart licence, there was great fanfare to the new legislation. As a result, many people were persuaded to exchange their existing paper licences for the new photocard and paper counterpart – this process is not yet compulsory and a minority of people who obtained licences prior to 1998 still retain their old style paper licences with no accompanying photocard.
What many people did not know when exchanging their licence was that they would have to renew the photocard part every 10 years, for a fee payable to DVLA [currently £20] believing that the new licence system was for life.
The reason for renewal is that as we age our appearance changes hence the same requirement to update passports and nothing to do with raising revenue!
What happens if my photocard licence has expired?
Apply for a new one immediately – once the application is with the DVLA technically you can drive even before you receive it.
Failure to renew risks a £1,000 fine and the implications of driving without insurance since entitlement to drive legally has ended so invalidating the insurance. Although it does depend upon the terms and conditions of the particular insurance most insurers will avoid liability when the licence has expired - so is worth checking your policy if such a problem arises.
It is likely in practice that the first time the photocard expiry is noticed is upon its request following a traffic offence or accident. You could find yourself having to personally foot the bill for even a non-fault accident simply because your licence had expired – so check it, if it has expired renew it and if it is still valid, diarise the renewal date.
The first renewals were due in 2008 and it is estimated that over the course of the next 5 years, £13million drivers are due to renew their photo card licence. Several studies have also suggested that as many as 40,000 drivers per year are unaware their photocard is due for renewal.
Whilst the DVLA should write to you two months prior to the card expiring to invite you to renew, renewal is your responsibility and you can not rely on the fact in court that you had not received a DVLA notification – so double check the expiry date now.
An additional problem may be caused by a change of address since you must advise the DVLA. It is common that people forget to do this (which in itself carries a court fine of up to £1,000 although in practice courts rarely impose such a fine on the first occasion – giving a warning instead). Also if you haven’t notified a change of address the DVLA can’t write to you to remind you of photocard expiry and you won’t be informed - so, if your address has changed notify the DVLA.
How to apply for a renewal photocard
1) You can apply on-line for a cost of £20 athttp://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Motoring/DriverLicensing/NeedANewOrUpdatedLicence/index.htm- if you have recently updated your passport, your new photo should be kept centrally and can also be used for your driving licence.
2) If you have received a renewal notification which is a form D798 you will need to send a new photo, counterpart licence and the fee of £20. There is an additional charge of £4.50 for using post office. The licence should arrive within 3 weeks.
3) Alternatively if you have not received a renewal notice you can apply via form D1 Application for licence form from the post office.
4) Generally if your licence has been lost/stolen/damaged or destroyed, you have changed your name or address, or your medical status has changed due to a condition that may affect your ability to drive, you must apply for a replacement with the relevant accompanying documentation.
The inconvenience of the renewal process set out above is far less costly and distressing than having to explain why you haven’t done so to a Magistrates Court or when your insurance company is refusing to pay out on the basis you were driving without a valid licence.
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Hill Dickinson has a wealth of experience in dealing with the full range of regulatory issues. If you have any queries relating to the above, or any other legal matter, please do not hesitate to contact us for advice.