SA's driving card system in dire need of renewal

The Automobile Association (AA) says a moratorium on fining motorists without renewed driving licences must be implemented as a matter of urgency, and that immediate steps be taken to fix the current renewal processes.
The Automobile Association (AA) says a moratorium on fining motorists without renewed driving licences must be implemented as a matter of urgency, and that immediate steps be taken to fix the current renewal processes.
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The Automobile Association (AA) says a moratorium on fining motorists without renewed driving licences must be implemented urgently, and that immediate steps be taken to fix the renewal processes.

“The system was broken even before the lockdown began. Now, with thousands of anxious motorists struggling to renew their driving licence cards for a variety of reasons, the failures of the system are being exposed even more. And, what is most concerning, is that there appears to be no acknowledgment of this by the authorities, nor any attempts to assist the public. We must be honest and admit that the current processes are, quite simply, shambolic,” says the AA.

The association says of particular concern is that the already under resourced and inadequately staffed traffic law enforcement authorities are setting up roadblocks to ensnare motorists with expired driving licence cards and vehicle licence discs, even though they are aware that there are few avenues for motorists to renew these documents. All the while, more serious violations are not being dealt with, because traffic law enforcement officers focus on soft targets. The AA says traffic policing must be about road safety and not revenue.

“It’s an absurd situation where motorists cannot renew their discs or cards, and are then stopped and fined for not having done so. It’s not news to anyone that the online booking system is not functional, that Driving Licence Testing Centres (DLTCs) are open erratically and understaffed, and that online networks at DLTCs are also often down, all of which result in motorists being unable to renew their cards. The only people who don’t seem to acknowledge these issues are the authorities and it’s the motorists who ultimately suffer,” notes the AA.

The association says the vast majority of motorists in the country want to remain legally on the road, and go to great lengths to get their driving licences renewed. But, it asks, what must motorists who rely on their vehicles to earn an income do if they aren’t able to get these discs and cards renewed?

“Law abiding citizens with no alternatives must continue using their vehicles to work and are then punished because of a problem they didn’t cause, by the very authorities who did,” says the AA.

In addition to placing a moratorium on fines, the AA says it's vital that alternatives to the current renewals processes are implemented.

“Not only must third party agents such as the AA be allowed to renew driving licence cards, but the system needs a dramatic overhaul, and quickly,” the AA says.

The association says calls by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse to extend the validity of driving licences from five to ten years makes sense, provided motorists have their eyes tested by registered professionals at least every five years to ensure their vision is good enough to remain safe on the road. It suggests that these eye tests are also carried out by motorists and presented to authorities when asked to do so. But, the AA says, increasing the validity of licences from five to ten years must run parallel to ensuring the system is improved and updated.

“Motorists must be able to easily renew their vehicle licence discs and driving licence cards, through a system which is responsive and available, and which actually works,” the AA concludes.

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