DVLA delays and riding without a UK driving licence

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The DVLA has announced that the delays it’s experiencing with licence renewals are continuing, which is absolutely no use if you need to renew your driving licence to let you enjoy the summer on your bike.

It doesn’t matter what motorcycle you have, your licence is the key to riding and the freedom that it brings us, so we need to keep it – like all of our other bike kit – in top condition.

People need to renew their licences for all sorts of reasons, from a straightforward photocard renewal through to a whole list of medical conditions ,and while a lot of applications can be completed online, the DVLA still maintains a system for applying via a paper application using the good old Royal Mail.

Online applications are not suffering from any delays, but the paper system is, and riding with an expired licence could cost up to £1,000 in fines. However, all is not lost as Section 88 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 allows you to ride or drive – subject to strict conditions – even with an expired licence.


When do I have to renew my driving licence?

If you look at your licence (check out this article for how to read the information on it) you’ll see at section 4b that it expires on a date that won’t be more than ten years away. This is the date your photocard licence runs out so if it’s due soon, get an online application completed with the benefit that if you include your passport number, your new licence will have that picture put onto it so there’s no need to pose in a booth.

If you’re using a paper application, it will be subject to delays in processing.


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How do medical conditions affect my driving licence?

If you’ve got a medical condition, it could well mean that you now have – or will need – a short-term licence; one that gets renewed every three years instead of every ten.

The fear of losing your licence through illness can be huge, although it needn’t mean you can’t ride. There’s a massive list that covers conditions that you need to tell the DVLA about, but it’s important that you do.

You can be fined up to £1,000 for not telling the DVLA, and the penalties if you’re involved in an incident where someone is hurt could see you facing a Dangerous Driving charge.

Section 88 of the Road Traffic Act lets you drive or ride if your licence has expired, but only under strict conditions, like your doctor hasn’t advised against it and your application is already with the DVLA being processed or in the backlog.

You must give up your licence if:

  • Your doctor tells you to stop driving for three months or more
  • Your medical condition affects your ability to drive safely and lasts for three months or more
  • You do not meet the required standards for driving because of your medical condition


What happens to your driving licence when you’re 70?

Have a look at the back of your driving licence and you’ll see that although the licence itself expires every ten years, the categories of vehicles that you can drive – or ride if it’s a motorcycle (Category A) – expire the day before you reach 70. That’s because you’ll have to apply for a new licence every three years once you’re 70.

You don’t have to take a re-test and the DVLA will contact you prior to the big day to remind you to renew your licence. You do have to apply to renew it; it won’t happen automatically.


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Can I ride or drive if my licence has expired?

As we said earlier, Section 88 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 enables you to carry on riding while your licence is being renewed if you meet ALL of the following conditions:

  • You have the support of your doctor to continue driving; check the A-Z list of conditions you might have to see how they affect you.
  • You had a valid licence that has expired, but you have sent it to the DVLA for renewal
  • You only drive under the conditions of the previous licence: obviously you can only ride a size of bike you’ve already qualified for
  • Your application is less than a year old and must be with the DVLA already
  • Your last licence wasn’t revoked or refused for medical reasons
  • You’re not currently disqualified
  • You weren’t disqualified as a high-risk offender on or after 1 June 2013

To answer all of the “Can I ride” questions, the DVLA has produced a guide catchily named INF188/6 (who thinks of these names?); if you need a definitive answer to your circumstances then you’ll most likely find it here.

Remember, Section 88 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 isn’t like the old ‘It’s in the post mate.’ You really do have to have submitted a renewal either online or on paper. The cops will have a DVLA liaison, and if they need to make enquiries about your licence they’ll probably find out the truth.