Pays to keep driver's licence up to date

RICHARD MEADOWS
Last updated 05:00 15/06/2014
Police cop breath testing
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ
PHEW: Knowing your driver’s licence is up to date is a relief if you’re pulled over at a police checkpoint.

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Fish your driver's licence out of your wallet, right now. Chances are you've never looked at it closely, especially if your ID photo looks like a prison mugshot.

If you take a gander at number "4b", you'll see a date. Hopefully it's some time in the future, because otherwise your licence is expired.

This was a revelation to me. I was vaguely aware that the elderly have to re-apply every now and then to make sure they're still fit to be on the road.

Turns out driver's licences have to be renewed every 10 years. Until a (middle-aged) friend got pinged for driving on an expired licence, I hadn't given it much thought.

It would appear I'm not alone in my ignorance. Police roadblocks regularly collect at least a dozen or so people unwittingly driving on an expired licence.

The surprisingly harsh $400 penalty is no doubt a great little money-earner for the Government's coffers.

When you think about it, for someone on the average salary, that's like being docked a few days' pay simply for what amounts to a paperwork error.

If you're a serial offender, you're really going to get yourself in strife. You can receive a fine of up to $1000, be forbidden to drive, or have your vehicle impounded on the roadside.

Most worryingly of all, you could also have an insurance claim declined.

Insurers usually have a clause saying you must hold a "current and valid" licence.

While they say your claim will only be declined if that was a relevant factor in the accident, it's not worth the risk.

The $400 fine and potential insurance strife is a no-brainer to avoid. First off, you'll be mailed out a reminder letter by the New Zealand Transport Authority eight weeks beforehand.

But you can't rely on that, as they might have the wrong address on file.

You can renew your licence at any time, so it pays to be proactive.

Best of all, if you do it within the last 12 months of its life, the new expiry date will be set at 10 years from the old date, not from when you actually applied.

Assuming you get your full licence around age 20, this is the sort of issue that's going to crop up at least three or four times throughout your life (and hopefully more).

The price of living in a bureaucracy is that you've got to make sure you've crossed your t's and dotted your i's.

Those who don't will end up funding an endless string of revenue-gathering exercises for the state. While annoying, it's best to just get it done and save yourself the frustration and financial damage of receiving an annoying fine.

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