Check your photocard driving licence or risk a £1,000 fine

So you think a £60 parking ticket is a bit harsh? In that case, you might want to double-check the expiration date on your driving licence photocard before you risk the possibility of a whopping £1,000 fine. These photocards have sparked fury throughout Britain as motorists have left their cards to expire and as a result, endured a rather abrasive wrap on the knuckles by the DVLA.

These relatively new pink photocard licences were first issued in 1998 to motorists who wished to take advantage of their practicalities – they were credit card sized, could fit in your wallet, and they didn’t degrade or rip like their original green paper counterparts. They were also very futuristic and flashy at the time, sporting a photograph of the driver they strangely became a ‘must-have’ commodity for those cool-cats on the road.

However, the little pink cards in question have now provoked a very different reaction from many of these motorists, a staggering 40,000 motorists in fact.

Incensed motorists are complaining that the expiration date of these cards is misleading, allowing motorists to believe the cards expire when they hit the grand old age of 70 (as did the green paper licences). In actual fact the photocards only have a 10 year shelf life. Drivers now not only risk a fine of £1,000, but they also risk prosecution if stopped by the police and amazingly could even find their insurers refusing to make payouts on any claims they happen to make.

This problem has only just risen its head due to the fact that the first batch of licences were issued in 1998, meaning July 2008 saw the first ever renewal date. Between the months of July 2008 and January 2009, 173,867 photocards expired, and according to the DVLA only 128,987 drivers paid the £17.50 renewal fee and sent in updated photographs for identification purposes.

That means that over 40,000 motorists are currently risking a £1,000 fine and driving on the roads illegally.

Although motorists are failing to see the expiry date on the card, this doesn’t actually explain how they failed to see the DVLA renewal letter hit their door mat when renewal time came. The letter sent out by the DVLA clearly states that a driver’s photocard is approaching its expiry date and the driver must send £17.50 to cover administration and production costs. Well it looks like the old ‘ignore it and it’ll go away’ maxim didn’t quite ring true this time.

Fighting in the motorists corner, Edmund King president of the AA, said that many motorists would be unaware that they were even breaking the law in the first place. “The vast majority of motorists thought when they got a driving licence, they had it for life and the fact that it expires will come as a great shock especially as it is not clear when this happens.” He added: “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.”

A spokesman for the DVLA said: “It is important that photocards are updated every ten years to ensure the Police and other enforcement agencies have the best possible tool to help them correctly identify whether a driving licence is being used fraudulently, and to help prevent driving licence impersonation stopping disqualified and perhaps dangerous drivers taking to our roads.”

This has now become quite a heated debate, especially as 2009 is a bad year for anybody to be forking out £1,000 for a fine. It looks like the only solution would be to re-design the photocards making the expiry date more prominent. As it currently stands you have to read the small print on the back of the card to understand what the numbers on the front of the card are assigned to.

Arguably, if the photocards had an expiry date clearly marked on the front, much the same as a credit card, this problem may be solved. However, drivers will still have to receive a renewal letter in the post and be at least a little proactive in writing a cheque and sending it back to the DVLA within the designated period. Surely it can’t be too difficult. If a letter came through to you in the post in a DVLA branded envelope, would you honestly think it was junk mail? No, neither would I.

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