The End of Paper Driving Licenses

Driving Licence

It’s going. Goodbye to that crumpled piece of paper in the back of your wallet. Farewell dog-eared remnant of the past. From this June, the Swansea-based Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, commonly known as the DVLA, will stop issuing paper driving licences. The familiar green-and-pink document that every driver has to own, to legally be allowed on the road, will be history.

In recent times, the paper licence has been a mere counterpart that has accompanied the modern photocard driving licence. As of the 8th of June, it will be discontinued. So those of us who have both a plastic photocard licence and a paper one can scrap the latter. It means that any convictions will no longer be instantly checkable on the paper sheet, but instead will be available for checking via a new digital service set up by the DVLA.

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Driving licences have a 127 year history. The world’s very first driving licence was issued in 1888, although it wasn’t called that at the time. Karl Benz, immortalised in the name of Mercedes-Benz, is regarded as the inventor of the motor car. He had to seek written permission from the Grand Ducal authorities in his native Germany to operate his prototype Benz Motorwagen, after local residents complained about the noise and smell of the rudimentary motorised vehicle. The hand-written document was proof that he had official blessing to drive his pioneering ‘horseless carriage’.

The world’s first mandatory driving licence was British, introduced by parliament in the Motor Car Act of 1903, which required every car owner to register their vehicle with the relevant local authority. The licence, originally a sulphurous yellow coloured document, confirmed that its holder had ‘freedom of the road’, albeit limited to a maximum speed limit of 20 mph.

The modern photocard driving licence was introduced in 1998. It has to be renewed every ten years, until the age of 70, and then every three years thereafter. A few drivers still have a pre-1998 paper licence that still remains valid until they reach 70 or change address, and they can still legally drive with that form of licence beyond the June change, until either of those things happens.

There is just one person in Britain who is entitled to drive but does require a driving licence. Nor does she need to have number plates on her vehicle. Who else but Her Majesty the Queen …

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Sue Baker is a seasoned motoring journalist with a love of all things automotive.