Paper driving licences

It’s the word we heard so often on the march to the future: paperless.

Pioneers in this regard are the United Kingdom’s Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). Giddy with the 2014 success of scrapping the paper disc that showed you had paid your vehicle excise duty, on 8 June 2015 they abolished the paper counterpart to the photo-card driving licence. No stopping them!


The aim of doing this, they proudly proclaimed, was to “to save motorists money, reduce red tape, and make sure that employers weren’t relying on potentially out-of-date paper.” That last bit is because it was the paper counterpart that used to include information on how many penalty points you had amassed in the course of your speeding and dangerous driving career, along with details of which vehicles you were legally qualified to drive.

(Perhaps they ought to have edged forward more warily, as the scrapping of the little paper discs looks like it cost them as much as £80 million in lost revenue. But, you know, what’s 80 million pounds when it comes to the glorious future?)

The thing is, when it comes to pieces of paper, people routinely insist on losing them. In 2014, the DVLA had to replace around 445,000 of the paper counterparts because drivers had mysteriously misplaced them. That’s a lot of pieces of paper.

Now, information about your penalty points and whether you should be driving that monster truck is held online. You can share your licence details with third parties who might have a legitimate interest in knowing if you are actually, say, disqualified from driving (such as employers or car-rental agencies) via the DVLA’s digital service. This service is excitingly titled “View Driving Licence“.

The people who held only a paper licence — because they lived lives of such order and tranquillity, and had changed neither their name nor their address (and hadn’t lost that bit of paper) since 1998 (when the photo-cards arrived) — were allowed to keep them. Those licences are still valid.

Good thing, really, as there were 8.7 million of them.

That would have meant fairly long queues at the photo booths. Crisis averted.

(Even though we British do like a good queue.)

Gradually, naturally, those bits of paper will now fade away. The future really is, after all — in DVLA world if not in your office — paperless.



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