Driving with J9: Grateful for the licence extension, but what about the elderly and everyone else?

A driver's licence. Image: Duncan Alfreds
A driver's licence. Image: Duncan Alfreds
Duncan Alfreds, News24

• Expired lockdown licences now have an extended grace period to the end of November.

• Licencing centres remain under pressure during the global pandemic. 

• Expired learner licences are yet to be addressed.

• For more motoring stories, go to www.Wheels24.co.za

There were plenty of hoorahs and ululations on Friday (17 July) after the Department of Transport announced the grace period for lockdown expired licences have extended to the end of November 2020.

And, it really does spread some message of hope that the government does, after all, listen to the people of South Africa. But, I understand why the Automobile Association, who has been leading the charge for an extension, says this small victory is hardly enough and so much more needs to be done.

You see, this might be a temporary solution for those who have been battling to renew their vehicle or learner licences which had expired during the national hard lockdown restrictions of Level 4 and Level 5, but it still leaves all other motorists in a predicament. 

It seems the extension still only applies for those licences which have expired during the lockdown period of 26 March to 31 May.

But what about everyone else? 

I have received hundreds of emails from motorists who fell under the 21-day grace period, which technically applies to expired vehicle licences. Or, those who missed falling into the lockdown category by a week or even a couple of days. Or, those whose licences expired from 1 June. 

READ | Good news! Expired licence renewals grace period extended to the end of November 2020

Most driver licencing centres and municipalities only opened during the second or third week of June - and since then, most have had to close their doors, again or several times, due to positive Covid-19 cases. And, let's not even talk about the impossible task of booking an appointment online with the Natis system - still a problem for all, now almost two months after the online system had reopened. 

The backlog isn't just a problem for those whose licences expired during the lockdown; it's affecting everyone.

What happens if you are in a crash with an expired licence, or get a fine because you have been unable to renew your documents?

camera,traffic camera

Traffic fines still apply for expired licences. Image: GettyImages

And then let's give a mention to all those disregarded young people with learner licences. Many who have to spend hundreds or thousands of Rands on taking the learner tests, driving lessons, and making an appointment. They are being told: "Sorry, you have to start from scratch."

I think the department of transport should apply the extension to all those whose licences have expired from 1 February right up to the end of September or October. It's the only way to deal with the backlog. It will hopefully encourage anyone whose licence is yet to expire within the next couple of months to try and do so at least a month before the time - as suggested on the national government's website.  We're still smack-on in the middle of a pandemic. South Africa has one of the highest Covid-19 infection rates in the world, and we haven't even begun to flatten the curve in the least bit. We still have not hit our peak, and the next few months are still volatile.  

DLTCs and renewal offices will continue to close as the coronavirus spreads, and the queues will remain endless.

However, older citizens are fearing for their lives, and even with the extension. I also know that staff are short and licencing centres have their own challenges across the country. It would help though if there could be a dedicated line or queue for those motorists who are over the age of 60. 

If you have not yet done so, please sign the AA's online petition to extend the licence to the end of January 2021.

toyota supra, janine

Wheels24's Janine Van der Post is the first female editor of a mainstream online motoring publication. You can email her here with any queries. (Image: Calvin Fisher)

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