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Renewing driver’s licence grace period: What you should know

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If you renewed your driver’s licence before the end of the grace period, it will still be valid for three months or you will need a temporary licence.

In terms of your legal obligation and in the case of accident insurance claims, it is important to renew your licence in South Africa.

The extended grace period that the public was offered for the renewal of driver’s licences ended on 5 May 2022 and is unlikely to be reintroduced.

The driver’s licence renewal system in South Africa

Although renewing your driver’s licence every five years is an inconvenient process, it is important nonetheless in order to stay on the right side of the law and your insurance company in South Africa.

It is important to renew your driver’s licence before it reaches the expiry date under your licence number, as driving with an expired licence is similar to driving without a licence in the eyes of the law and this could lead to a fine if you are pulled over. Furthermore, insurance companies are unlikely to pay out accident claims if your licence was expired when the accident happened.

Renewing driver’s licence grace period: What you should know

Recently, the backlog of driver’s licences that need to be renewed have added more strain to this already inconvenient process. A number of factors have contributed to the backlog of new driver’s licences over the past few years in South Africa.

Factors contributing to this backlog include the periods of time when Driving Licence Testing Centres were closed due to imposed lockdown restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, the system failures of the online NaTIS (National Traffic Information System) booking system in some parts of the country, and the breakdown in the driving licence card production machine, which took some time to repair.

As a result of these extenuating circumstances, Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula, announced various grace periods which gave people who had been unable to renew their licences more time to do so. However, the last and final grace period that citizens had to renew driver’s licences ended on 5 May 2022.

There are certain important rules to know about how this grace period affects owners of driver’s licences that expired between 6 March 2020 and 31 August 2021, and all other driver’s licence cards. If you could not renew your licence prior to the end of this grace period ending, there are still some issues with the system that you should be aware of and some proposed plans to deal with the issues that may affect driver’s licence renewals in the future.

Rules for the driver’s licence renewal grace period

The official expiry date of this extended grace period was 5 May 2022 for driver’s licences that expired between 26 March 2020 and 31 August 2021. This includes learner’s licences, driving licence cards, temporary driving licences, and professional driving permits.

Thus, currently, if you have driver’s licences that fall into this category and have applied for the renewal of your licence before this date, you can still use your expired licence for a period of three months. You will need to have the expired licence and receipt with you at all times though.

If you only renewed your licence after this date, you would have had to pay for a temporary driver’s licence until you receive your renewed licence card.

Issues with the renewal process to be aware of

Even after the grace period ended, many South Africans were unable to renew their licences before the grace period ended, because of the backlog at Driving Licence Testing Centres in issuing new licences.

With the country coming to the end of the National State of Disaster, the grace period for driver’s licence renewals is not likely to be introduced again. This means that you need to be prepared to deal with long queues or the inefficient online NaTIS booking system to renew your driver’s licence. This is why it is important to start your renewal process as soon as possible to avoid the possibility of driving with an expired licence.

Proposed plans to deal with the backlog of licence renewals

Although the government has attempted to get the online NaTIS booking system to work more effectively and extended the operating hours of many of the Driving Licence Testing Centres before the grace period ended, there is still a backlog of licences that need to be renewed and newly expired licences are added daily.

As a result of this, advocacy groups like the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) have proposed plans to amend driver’s licence renewals to every 10 years to alleviate the backlogs, but this has not yet led to the amendment of the official South African regulations.

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