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Expired licence holders' grace period extended

Pretoria - In a briefing this morning, the Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula announced an extension to the grace period given to holders of expired driving licences. With the current backlog that is being experienced at Driving Licence Testing Centres (DLTCs), the ministry was under severe pressure from community-based organisations, businesses, and the public to further extend the grace period which was ending on 31 August 2021.

“In order to give motorists a fair opportunity to renew their licences, while we are rolling out a number of measures to improve efficiencies and resolve challenges, we have decided to extend further the grace period for the renewal of licences,” Minister Mbalula said on Friday.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in restrictions that led to the closure of DLTCs, which caused backlogs.

In his briefing, the Minister said nationally, 1 210 965 licences are not yet renewed, out of a total of 2 852 388 expired licences. This represents 42.4% non-renewal, with 57.6% of all expired licences having been renewed.

“All learner’s licences, driving licence cards, temporary driving licences and professional driving permits that expired during the period that commenced from 26 March 2020 up to and including 31 August 2021, are deemed to be valid, and their validity periods are extended for a further grace period ending on 31 March 2022.

“This extension comes into effect from the date of publication of the Directions in the Government Gazette,” the Minister said.

In light of the now extended deadline of 31 August 2021, insurers, through their industry body, the South African Insurance Association (SAIA) had already given motorists comfort in the fact that “an insurer will not automatically reject a claim where a licence has expired. This matter is particularly relevant when there are backlogs or delays in getting appointments at Drivers Licence Testing Centres (DLTCs)”.

SAIA said that insurers follow the guidance provided by the Ombudsman for Short-term Insurance (OSTI) who has from as far back as May 2007 ruled that insurers should not refuse to entertain the claim if the driver’s licence or licence disc has expired. 

“To determine an equitable outcome, the insurer would need to demonstrate prejudice because of the failure to be in possession of a valid licence, therefore materiality is a critical factor for consideration. 

The OSTI stated that the insurer should consider the full merits of each claim before making a decision and not reject claims solely because a driver’s license had expired. Therefore, as each individual claim is judged according to its own merits, in some cases, after examining the particulars of a claim, an insurer may determine that not having a valid licence was material and therefore directly relevant to the claim. In such a case, a claim might be denied.”

However, the industry body advised policyholders to proactively contact their respective insurer or broker to make them aware of difficulties being experienced in getting a licence renewed, as well as provide evidence that the renewal application has been made or at least that attempts have been made in this regard. Insurers would make the necessary concession(s) for valid claims in consideration of this.

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