Civil society group Outa held meetings with the Department of Transport this week to discuss the introduction of a 10-year driver licence system in South Africa.
This comes after Transport minister Fikile Mbalula announced in February that a team at the Road Traffic Management Corporation will compile a report on this proposal in the coming months, with a focus on how extending licences to 10 years could impact safety and revenue.
During the meeting, Outa provided the minister with a position paper motivating for solutions including 10-year licence cards, said executive director, Stefanie Fick.
“Extending the period of validity of driver’s licence cards from five to 10 years will immediately bring an end to the backlog chaos that is not going to be resolved for a long time if the status quo remains,” she said.
“This will also provide ample time for the Department of Transport to get on top of the systemic challenges that have led to the driver’s licence card renewal crisis and hopefully develop more robust and corruption-free solutions going forward.”
Data provided by Outa shows that across the world the average period of licence validity was 8.5 years, ranging from three to 20 years. Africa and the Americas had the lowest periods at five and six years respectively, while the Middle East/Asia, Australasia and Europe had the highest at 8.6 years, 10 years and 11.5 years respectively.
The group argues that there are no negative road safety implications from extending the validity period from five to 10 years, while the upsides are substantial social and administrative gains for motorists and the state.
Outa’s list of proposed changes to the current system include:
- Extend the expiry date of all driver’s licence cards in current circulation by five years, with no need for replacing expired cards.
- Issue all-new driving licence cards with a 10-year validity period.
- Keep the five-year validity period for motorists over the age of 70 years, due to eyesight requirements.
One of the key reasons Outa is pushing for a 10-year licence is to reduce the backlog and system errors that plague the current system,
“The driving licence card renewal system has been chaotic. Administrative equipment is dysfunctional, the National Traffic Information System (NaTIS) is frequently down or slow, motorists can’t get bookings for slots in the queue, those who are able to book slots still have to endure endless queues, and the system is rotten with corruption.”
In 2020, there was a backlog of about 320,000 driving licence card renewals due, with demand growing by 90,000 a month, it said.
The backlog has grown over the last two years, partly due to Covid-19 shutdowns, and hundreds of thousands of motorists face a deadline of 31 March; others caught in the backlog were not granted an extension.
Outa believes that approximately 2.8 million driver’s licence card renewal applications have been affected by the backlog, with possibly half of those motorists now with expired cards. Minister Mbalula recently announced there would be no extension.
“The state should be obliged to move toward the more efficient options,” it said.