THOUSANDS of motorists are at risk of being fined up to £1,000 because they are unwittingly driving without a valid licence.
They risk prosecution after failing to spot the extremely small print on their photocard licence which says it expires after 10 years and has to be renewed – even though drivers are licensed to drive until the age of 70
The fiasco has come to ligh t a decade after the first batch of photo licences was issued in July 1998, which have now expired. Motoring organisations blamed the Government for the fiasco and said ‘most’ drivers believed their licences were for life.
To rub salt into wounds, drivers will have to a pay £17.50 to renew their card – a charge which critics have condemned as a ‘stealth tax’ and which will earn the Treasury an estimated £437million over 25 years.
Official DVLA figures reveal that while 16,136 expired last summer, so far only 11,566 drivers have renewed, leaving 4,570 outstanding.
At the heart of the confusion is the small print on the tiny credit-card-size photo licence, which is used in conjunction with the paper version. Just below the driver name on the front of the photocard licence is a series of dates and details – each one numbered. Number 4b features a date in tiny writing, but no explicit explanation as to what it means.
The date’s significance is only explained if the driver turns over the card and reads the key on the back which states that ‘4b’ means ‘licence valid to’.
Even more confusingly, an adjacent table on the rear of the card sets out how long the driver is registered to hold a licence – that is until his or her 70th birthday.
A total of 25million new-style licences have been issued but, motoring experts say, drivers were never sufficiently warned they would expire after 10 years.
Motorists who fail to renew their licences in time are allowed to continue driving. But the DVLA says they could be charged with ‘failing to surrender their licence’, an offence carrying a £1,000 fine.