Government is working on replacing the current driving licence card with a new card that has more secure design features and will comply with the international driving licence standard.
“The current driving licence card was introduced in 1998 and the production equipment was procured in the same year. The technology has become obsolete,” Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula said on Friday during a media briefing in Midrand.
The Minister is expected to publish the changes to the driving licence card in the government gazette.
“This will then enable us to commence with the procurement process for the new production infrastructure in October 2022. The new card will be piloted from 1 November 2023 until 31 March 2024.
“The current driving licence card and the equipment used to produce it will be decommissioned on 1 April 2024. However, there will be a five-year period of transition from the old card to the new. The current cards will continue to be recognised as valid licence cards until 31 March 2029,” Mbalula said.
As government had earlier committed to a review of the renewal period of the driving licence card, research on the matter was undertaken by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), which also undertook a benchmarking exercise covering 64 countries.
The research revealed that countries ranked above South Africa according to the World Health Organization (WHO), have an average driving licence card validity period of 9.3 years and countries ranked lower than South Africa averaging 4.4 years.
“It needs to be highlighted that many of the poorer road safety ranked countries are still using paper-based driving licences which would explain the lower average validity period in these countries.
“The average driving licence card validity period of almost 10 years is applicable in developed countries, with much better road safety ratios than South Africa.
“This is an important factor in validating a longer renewal period in line with international best practice. Most of the European Union (EU) countries have a five-year validity period for heavy vehicles,” the Minister said.
The Department of Transport is in the process of evaluating the options informed by the South African reality, which includes carnage on the roads, driver competence and prevalence of lifestyle diseases that influence safe driving.
“We have consulted with MECs on the matter and have received full support for the review. Once we have made a final determination on this matter, this will be communicated accordingly,” he said.
More than one million motorists driving with expired licenses
Meanwhile, government has committed to ramp up law enforcement efforts to bring to book 1.2 million motorists who have not renewed their expired driving licences.
“We will therefore up the ante in our law enforcement efforts in order to bring to book these wayward motorists who have no regard for the law or the safety of others on the road. We have determined that 67% of those who have not renewed their driving licences are between the ages of 25 and 50 years; 15% between the ages of 50 and 60 years; 17% above 60,” Mbalula said.
The most compliant group are those 25 years and younger, who account for only 1% of drivers who have yet to renew their driving licences.
“Our investigations have revealed that the vast majority of those who are not renewing their licences have infringements. We remain concerned at the high number of people who have yet to come forward to renew their expired driving licences, [of] which number currently stands at 1.2 million. The implications of this is that we have a sizeable number of motorists driving without a valid driving licence on our roads,” Mbalula said.
Government is introducing a smart enrolment solution to improve the service to motorists and reduce turn-around times at driving licence testing centres (DLTCs).
“This solution has been successfully piloted at the Waterfall and Eco-Park Centurion DLTCs and the Gauteng province will be the first to go live in March 2023, before the full deployment to otherpProvinces,” the Minister said.
The driving licence card backlog that resulted from the COVID-19 restrictions was cleared on 14 July 2022.
“To date, in excess of two million cards have been produced. Not only have we been able to reduce the turn-around time for our card production to pre-COVID levels, we have now improved on those levels. We have successfully reduced the waiting period for a driving licence card from 58 working days in April 2022 to 10 working days in July 2022,” the Minister said.