Thousands of drivers could face £1,000 fines this year because they’re unknowingly driving around with out-of date photocard licences.
The photograph on the photocard licence, introduced in July 1998, is only valid for ten years, and although 173,867 of these licences expired between July 2008 and January 2009, only 128,987 have so far been renewed, leaving 44,880 licence holders risking a hefty fine if they are caught.
Sean Joyce, a Partner at Stephensons Solicitors LLP, who defends drivers facing prosecution, believes many of those who have not yet renewed their photocard are unaware they are driving illegally.
He said: “It’s not commonly known that the photograph is only valid for ten years after it is issued. It needs to be renewed to avoid the licence being used fraudulently, and of course how we look in a photograph at 17 can alter dramatically to how we look ten years on.
“Many people assume their driving licence is valid until they reach 70 years old, and I’m sure many of those who are yet to renew fall into this category. That said, this is a serious matter and drivers could face a prosecution for ‘failing to surrender’ their licence, which carries a £1,000 fine.”
Drivers must send their expired licence with an up to date photograph to the DVLA who will issue a new one. The renewal costs £17.50, and will, it’s said, earn the Treasury more than £400 million over 25 years.
Sean adds: “I can see why many drivers would be unhappy to pay to renew a licence which they thought was valid for life and one which they initially paid £50 to obtain.
“As yet, no one has been prosecuted for having an out of date photocard but the reality is this is an offence and drivers should be checking the date of their licence very carefully to avoid a penalty.”
The implications of an expired licence are also relevant to businesses as well as private individuals. For businesses who accept licences from customers, for example for identification purposes, they must ask themselves are they willing to take the risk of accepting expired photocard licences if they can’t confirm their entitlement to drive is still in place or their details are accurate.