We have lately been confronted with some interesting questions from RMI4law members pertaining to the issue of driving with an expired drivers licence card, one of which was whether it is, in fact, an offence to do so in light of the provisions of regulation 101(2)(a) of the National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996 (hereinafter “NRTA”) which states that:
“The period of validity of a driving licence issued or deemed to be issued in terms of section 18 of the Act shall be indefinite unless such a licence has been suspended or cancelled in terms of the Act.”
The confusion is created by the fact that the NRTA does not seem to clearly differentiate between a driving licence and a driving licence card.
The NRTA and The National Road Traffic Act Regulations are two important pieces of legislation, which regulate the rules of the roads in South Africa. According to Section 1 of the NRTA, a driving licence is defined as: “a driving licence referred to in Chapter IV”.Section 13 of the NRTA, which forms part of Chapter IV, states that:
“A licence authorising the driving of a motor vehicle shall be issued by a driving licence testing centre in accordance with this Chapter and shall be either –
(a) a provisional licence, to be known as a learner’s licence; or
(b) a licence, to be known as a driving licence,…”
Regulation 108(3)(a) states that a driving licence (as provided for in Section 13) is recorded in the register of driving licences. In accordance with regulation 108(5)(a) a driving licence card shall, subject to provisions of regulations 101(2)(a), expire 5 years from the date on which it was ordered from the card production facility. As alluded to above, regulation 101(2)(a) makes no mention of the expiration of a driving licence, but expressly states that the validity of a driving licence shall be indefinite. The uncertainty therefore created by the aforesaid regulation is whether the expiration of a driving licence card also leads to the expiration of a driving licence.
The manner of application for and the issue of a driving licence is dealt with in Section 18 of the NRTA which provides that the holder of a learner’s licence who wishes to obtain a driving licence must apply in the prescribed manner to a driving licence testing centre for a licence to drive a motor vehicle.
Further, when the application is made the driving licence testing centre shall, if satisfied with the information furnished in the application and that the Applicant is not disqualified from obtaining a driving licence, invite the applicant to present him/herself to be examined by an examiner. An examiner will test an Applicant for a driving licence and, where an examiner has satisfied him/herself that the Applicant is competent to drive a motor vehicle of the class to which their application relates, the examiner will then issue or authorise the issue of a driving licence in the prescribed manner to the Applicant in respect of the motor vehicle class.
The manner of issue of a driving licence is expressly dealt with in Regulation 108 of the regulations to the NRTA and provides that the examiner for driving licences, if satisfied that the Applicant may be issued with a driving licence and that the Applicant is not disqualified from holding a driving licence, shall issue the driving licence in the prescribed form.
According to the above provisions, the driving licence “appears” on the driving licence card. Regulation 108(5)(a) expressly states that “a driving licence card shall expire five years from the date on which it has been ordered from the Card Production Facility”. However, Regulation 108 (5)(b) states that “The holder of a driving licence card may apply for a new card in the manner contemplated in regulation 109 and the new card shall be authorised and issued in the manner contemplated in regulation 109(3).” The word “may” suggest that this provision is not peremptory but that the holder of a driving licence has a choice as to whether to renew the card or not. The regulations furthermore do not expressly state that it is an offence if a holder of a driving licence fails to renew the driving licence card.
The closest indication that the driving of a motor vehicle with an expired driving licence card constitutes an offence in terms of the NRTA is found in section 12 which provides as follows:
“12 No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a public road—
(a) except under the authority and in accordance with the conditions of a licence issued to him or her in terms of this Chapter or of any document deemed to be a licence for the purposes of this Chapter; and
(b) unless he or she keeps such licence or document or any other prescribed authorisation with him or her in the vehicle.”
The NRTA and its Regulations does not expressly state whether a driving licence card is a “document deemed to be a licence” as provided for in section 12.
It seems that there is no express indication that the expiration of a driving licence card is tantamount to the expiration of a driving licence and this question definitely warrants further and in-depth investigation. In order to avoid the risk of a fine, it is advisable that drivers of vehicles are at all times in possession of a driving licence card which has not yet expired.
Roxanne Paans is a Candidate Attorney in the litigation department at Barnard Incorporated in Centurion.
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