DESPITE the fact that old-style driving licences were replaced by plastic cards 23 years ago (that made us feel old, too), some people are still unsure whether or not their paper version is legal.
That’s because the rules are different depending on your age, when your licence was issued, whether or not you’ve moved house and a number of other variables.
The question may be especially pertinent at the moment due to the fact that the government issued an 11 month extension on all driving licences that expired between February 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
To clear up your confusion, carry on reading.
Do I need to exchange my paper driving licence for a photocard?
In 2015, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) scrapped the paper part of driving licences for anyone who had been issued with one after 1998.
If you’ve been issued with a paper licence at any point over the last 23 years, you should also have a photocard, and you can happily discard your paper counterpart.
However, if you were issued with a paper licence before March 2000, it may still be valid, provided that all the information on it is still correct. For example, if you have moved house or changed your name since receiving your licence, it will make it invalid, and you could be fined £1,000 if caught by police using it.
One study found that up to 3% of women were using their maiden name on their driving licence.
Does the DVLA still issue paper licences?
In 1998, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) replaced the old-style paper licence with a plastic photocard and paper counterpart, the latter of which was used for tallying up the number of licence points you had.
However, in 2015 the paper counterpart was replaced by an online service, and paper counterparts ceased to be issued entirely, partially due to the number of people that kept losing them. Around 445,000 people misplaced theirs in 2014, having to pay £20 each time to replace it — a total cost of nearly £9m.
Are paper licences still valid in 2021?
Some paper licences are still valid in 2021, but not all of them.
If your paper licence was issued before March 31, 2000, and, as outlined above, all of the information on your paper licence is still correct, then it will usually remain valid until you turn 70.
On the day before your birthday, you will need to renew your licence, and you will be issued a photocard free of charge. All driving licences must be plastic by 2033.
If you fancy modernising and swapping out your paper licence for a photocard, you can do so through a service on the government website.
Swapping costs £20, and the government says that it may take over three weeks for you to receive your plastic licence due to disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Provided you’re medically and legally cleared to drive and your application isn’t more than a year old, you’re allowed to drive while you are swapping out your paper licence for a photo card.