It's been just over a year since we've been reporting on expired driving licences and renewals and all the drama that goes with it. I have recently confessed that I had not yet done my own licence renewal, mainly because my daughter and I have comorbidities and would not risk being exposed to the coronavirus in closed spaces with long queues.
Of late, I had been feeling incredibly guilty every time I urged our readers to make an effort to renew their driving licences before the 31 August 2021 deadline approaches; my licence card expired during the hard lockdown in April 2020.
However, I told myself those lines would not get any shorter, so I'll need to bite the bullet and do it before August is right on our doorstep.
Down in the Western Cape and everywhere else outside Gauteng, walk-in appointments are still the norm. I've heard the online Natis system now also applies to Port Elizabeth motorists, but I am yet to hear any complaints from any readers who reside there.
What has your experience been like when renewing your expired driving licence card? Or, is there a DLTC or official with great service you'd like to tell us about? Please email us here or use the comments section below.
The wonderful thing about the Somerset West licence testing centre is that they're also open on Sundays, probably one of the only centres here in the Western Cape to do so. They're open because the centre itself is tiny, and on Saturdays, the main area for renewals is used for learner's licence classes. On that note, they're currently not doing learner licences at the centre because they don't have the capacity.
So what do you need when going for a driving licence renewal:
1. Make time
Firstly, set out some time, or even an entire day - even if you've made your appointment online with the Natis booking system, the actual process could take a few hours.
If possible, go the second week of the month or just before payday for walk-in appointments - I've noticed queues are generally shorter around these times. I also drove past the driving testing centre for a few weeks and checked the queues. Being really early is an option to jump the queues, but then take a camping chair and a warm jacket if you have to wait another hour or so for doors to open.
I joined the queue a little after the school run and when most of the early birds had already been assisted. When I had done everything two hours later, the line had once again snaked towards the road.
2. Temporary licences
If your driving licence card is still valid, or if you have a lockdown expired licence (one that expired any time from 26 March to 31 December 2020), you won't need to pay for a temporary vehicle licence which costs R45. The licence renewal fee is R140. If your licence expired before this time or after 1 January 2021, you would need to take out a temporary licence as well.
3. Documents needed
If your driving licence is expired, you will need your ID or passport as identification, you'll also need proof of address (this could be a utility bill, clothing account, cellphone or mobile service provider bill). If you live at home with your parents, you'll need a signed affidavit from your Mom, Dad or legal guardian stating where you live.
You'll need to fill in the green form for a new driving licence if you've just passed your learner's licence and if you're coming for a driving licence card renewal or need to change particulars.
4. Eye tests
Yes, you can bring along a certified eye test from an optometrist, which means you won't need to do the eye test at the centre. However, the test itself takes less than five minutes - provided you get the instructions correct. If you have an eye test in hand, the officials will load your results from your eye test report onto the database.
You then pay your driving licence fee of R140 either in cash, or you could swipe your card at most centres, and you're all done. The friendly official at the teller explained that an SMS would be sent out when the licence card is ready for collection, or you could physically come and check at the centre in six weeks if it's ready to be collected.
My experience was based at operations at the Somerset West driving licence testing centre, and it took me about two hours - including the 15mins I had to run back home to get my ID.
READ | Gauteng motorists older than 60 don't need online renewal bookings on Wednesdays
6. No online appointments for 60-year old's and older
Just a reminder also for motorists at the age of 60 years or older, you do not need an online booking appointment, and can go to any driving licence testing centre on Wednesdays only for a 'walk-in'.
The staff at Somerset West were incredibly friendly and helpful, but most importantly, they were very strict about Covid-19 protocols. Despite the centre being small, physical distances were in place; sanitising equipment is done after each eye test, etc. They were professional and efficient and made the entire process such a pleasant one.
I genuinely believe Gauteng should scrap the online booking system for learner and driving licence appointments and make these walk-in appointments the norm again.
There are also many complaints about licence renewals and staff being lazy or rude, but when you have a centre like Somerset West, and the officials can be this proficient, it makes me have hope.
There's also a company called Gauteng Licence Bookings who are absolute saints at assisting Gauteng motorists with the online Natis system; we'll tell you all about them later this week.
Now, if only all other centres could take a page out of Somerset West's book, and the likes of Nompumelolo Makgale at the Heidelberg testing centre, or Wheels24 reader Keith Moir's angel, known as 'Mrs Vee', in Port Alfred. I know there are many other centres and officials who work there who genuinely care about helping the public. If only the government officials at the Transport Department could genuinely do the same.
Or, do you have a feel good motoring story to share? Perhaps you'd like your car featured on Wheels24?
You can email the Wheels24 editor here. We'd love to hear from you.