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Online eye tests to be part of major licensing system revamp

Denis Droppa Group motoring editor
Online services will minimize the need for motorists to visit a driving licence testing centre a number of times. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
Online services will minimize the need for motorists to visit a driving licence testing centre a number of times. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

Computerised learner’s licence testing and online eye tests for driver’s licences will be among a raft of hi-tech measures to improve service delivery to motorists, transport minister Fikile Mbalula has announced.

Speaking at the release of the festive season road fatality statistics at Grasmere toll plaza on Tuesday, Mbalula said these measures, to be introduced from February, would be game changers in improving the driving licence regime, allowing motorists to access services in the comfort of their homes.

Processes to digitalise driving licence renewal procedures are in the pipeline and will result in a paperless process, said Mbalula. This will include online eye-testing when driver’s licences are renewed every five years, where the eye test result will be automatically uploaded and linked to the user application.

“Through the RTMC, we are augmenting the capacity of Driving Licence Testing Centres (DLTCs) and will be launching online services in February 2022 to improve service delivery and minimise the need for a motorist to visit a DLTC a number of times,” said Mbalula.

“In addressing driver competency and putting in place measures to eliminate fraud, we are making significant progress in rolling out computerised learner’s licence testing. This will aid in addressing the corruption associated with the issuing of these licences.”

New Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) Regulations published on January 14 2022 introduce online services to the public for booking for learner’s licence tests, renewal of driving licences, motor vehicle registration and licensing, as well as online vehicle licence renewals. The latter, expected to be introduced next month, will enable the 2.4-million motorists renewing vehicle licence discs annually to avoid queues, fines and penalties for late renewal.

Long-term interventions include integration of driving licence simulators into the testing procedures, he said. This will entail testing the motorist’s level of knowledge of the motor vehicle and rules of the road before actually getting into the vehicle.

Mbalula also recently confirmed that the government is considering a new smart driver licence card, which was still awaiting cabinet approval.

The measures come in the wake of a huge backlog in the renewal of expired driving licences caused by the closure of driving licence-testing centres (DLTCs) due to Covid-19, faulty equipment and systems and corruption where officials sold online block bookings for bribes.

The backlog is worsened by the recent breakdown of the only machine able to print driver’s licence cards, which is overseas for repairs and may only be back in service by March.

In August Mbalula extended the grace period for the renewal of expired driver’s licences to March 31 2022 due to the huge backlog. All learner’s licences, driving licence cards, temporary driving licences and professional driving permits that expired between March 26 2020 and August 31 2021 are deemed to be valid until the end of March.

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