Saturday 10 December 2016

Take a minute and check your licence: its time might be up

* Our Road Safety Authority expert outlines what can happen if you overlook one vital document

Published 04/11/2015 | 02:30

The new look driving licence launched in recent years - make sure to check yours is in date.
The new look driving licence launched in recent years - make sure to check yours is in date.

Now is a good time to check if your learner permit or driving licence is nearing renewal time. November and December are good months to do so.

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It is hard to believe it's two years since the National Driving Licence Service (NDLS) opened for business - on Tuesday 29 October, 2013.

Earlier that year, in January, Ireland like the rest of the EU, switched from producing paper licences to producing plastic cards and learner permits.

Since then a total of 1,555,579 plastic card driving licences have been produced.

The creation of the NDLS also meant responsibility for driver licensing services passed from local authorities to the RSA. Before this, you had to go through your local motor tax office. The most significant change is the requirement to visit one of the new NDLS centres in person. This is because of the new 'face to face' application process which aims to increase the level of security, to combat fraud and keep unlicensed drivers off the roads by ensuring you are the only person using the licence.

In a departure from the old system, drivers are now able to apply at any NDLS centre: You are no longer tied to the local motor tax office. And there are more flexible opening hours, including on a Saturday.

There were some hiccups at the start, no doubt about it.

But that was to be expected with such a radical overhaul and centralisation of a system that was previously administered separately by each local authority.

The service is now processing licences more efficiently, with faster turnarounds and fewer incomplete applications.

Not completing the application correctly is probably the main reason why a licence application would be delayed.

There are guidance notes with the application forms and on ndls.ie to help.

The other possible delaying factor is for those applying to exchange their foreign licence for an Irish one.

Delays should be expected if you are doing this, as it can take a number of weeks for checks with the country of origin to confirm details and licence entitlements.

Overall, if the application is completed correctly, the NDLS is turning around a licence within five to eight working days.

Of the applications correctly completed 97.25pc were processed for postage within four days of receipt in the NDLS centre.

Currently there are 36 centres providing the service and the online booking system allows you to book an appointment at a time that suits.

Because of the extra security features there is no same-day delivery of a licence and that can be a source of frustration for customers.

A typical scenario is as follows: A person is going on holiday and wants to hire a car. Usually a fortnight, or quite likely, the week before going on the trip, the driving licence is pulled out.

Only then do people discover that it's either about to expire, or is out of date.

Cue frantic phone calls to the NDLS. The local public representative may also get pulled into expedite things.

The RSA normally sends out a notification to drivers to let them know that their licence is about to expire.

However, if the driver has moved or changed address, and hasn't updated us, they won't get the letter.

As a result many drivers may be unknowingly driving with an expired licence.

So we would urge you to check when your licence or learner permit is due to expire.

If it has expired, or is about to, make an appointment to get it renewed.

Remember you can apply to renew up to three months in advance of expiry.

Here's another good reason to check it: if your licence is 10 or more years out of date, you must start the application process again and take a driver theory test, mandatory driving lessons and a driving test.

If you need to renew your learner permit or licence book an appointment at an NDLS centre. November and December are both generally good months to apply for your new licence.

Certainly don't leave it until the eve of your 'holiday of a lifetime' to discover you need to renew your licence.

To book an appointment with any of the NDLS centres, you can visit ndls.ie.

Irish Independent

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