Driving Licence Fines of £1000: How will they catch you out?

I moved house not so long ago and made sure that I’d notified all the necessary companies of my new address. The gas and electricity were given the date of moving and meter readings, my new broadband was set up and completed without a hitch, and I had even remembered to forward on my post. Feeling pretty smug with myself my friend asked me if I had sent off my driving licence to have the change of address updated. ‘I’ll get to that in a few days’ I said nonchalently. ‘Do it now’ she warned, ‘There’s a £1000 fine if you are caught with the wrong address on it’. You can guess what I did next. But I digress. Not only do you get a whopping £1K fine for not having updated your address, you can also face the same fine for not renewing your licence after ten years. Moreover, get this, you’ll face exactly the same fine for not renewing the photograph on your licence after ten years. Did you know that? I sure as heck didn’t! And according to a Freedom of Information request made to the DVLA, neither do around 1.6 million drivers who are currently driving with expired photos on their licences.

The DVLA states that licences have to be renewed every ten years and so do photographs. The reason photocard licences need to be renewed is because people’s faces would change over that period, so updates are essential. Those with old-style paper licences are not affected. But there is more, just as the 1.6million drivers’ photographs have expired, 2.9million more drivers will have to renew by the end of 2012 – and over the next five years, almost 13million drivers must renew their photograph in order to abide by the law. Sainsbury’s Car Insurance discovered that nearly half of drivers on the road (41%) were not aware of the hefty fine if they were caught driving with an expired photograph, or an expired licence, or the wrong address. The bad news is that this can be enforced by the police under Section 99 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and you could go to court and be made to pay the fine. The good news is that there’s no impact on your car insurance as long as the driver has not been disqualified or told not to drive by the DVLA (due to a medical issue, for example).

The problem is that renewing your photo card licence costs £20 (not for a change of address update so long as you have the paper licence to send with it) and it is suspected that this is the reason why so many motorists have not sent theirs off. They believe they have already paid for it. Sainsburys Car Insurance went even further with their survey and discovered that less than one in three of those drivers who had an expired licence were even aware that it had expired. When questioned, a further 10million people could not say when their licence expires and 14 per cent of expired photo card licences had actually been out-of-date since 2009 or before. The survey revealed some interesting facts about what people thought would be the consequences of driving with an expired licence. Just under a third knew that it would result in a £1K fine whilst just over a third thought it would invalidate your car insurance and 27 per cent thought it could mean getting points on your licence.

The head of Sainsburys Car Insurance, Ben Tyte, commented, “The photo card driving licence was introduced in 1998 so it’s unsurprising that those issued with a licence around that time may not remember that they need to update their photograph. We would therefore encourage all drivers to check when their photo card was issued and ensure that they arrange to update their photo when required to avoid risking a £1,000 fine. Drivers should also remember that their photo card licence serves as more than just a driving licence. Should they intend to use it as a form of identification for other things such as hiring a car or an internal flight, for example, having an out of date photograph could cause problems or delays.” As far as we know, the government have no plans to make photocard driving licences compulsory, so if you still have a paper driving licence you don’t have to worry about ten yearly updates, but you must still notify DVLA of name or address changes. The government do have the power to recall all the paper licences so that everyone wil have the same identity proof photo card, but they have not yet set a date to do so. A spokesperson for the AA said that if the government insists on everyone changing, it should phase in such a move and subsidise the cost. In the meantime, making sure that the details you hold a paper or photo card licence are upto date and correct is the only way to avoid a hefty fine.