“ Renewing picture driving license - DVLA „
I had one of those ominous looking DVLA brown envelopes in the post and a quick mental check told me my car tax was not due for renewal , so I opened it with a sinking feeling. Inside was a notice that my photo driving license was about to expire next month and I would be required to renew it forthwith.
If you have recently renewed your passport, the process is more simple as shared databases enable them to process the new license using their intelligence (you still get to pay the fee though!) but for me this was not the case as I had renewed my passport in 2008.
A couple of options were detailed on the paperwork. You could send in a new passport photo with the usual stringent rules about not smiling and removing glasses and headwear. Or you could locate a Post Office branch with one of those new fancy machines that take up a huge amount of space and are like a white booth usually near the counter.
The white booth
I hate having passport photos taken as I always hate the results and that spinney chair and the instructions make me nervous. A local branch to me had one of these so I thought I would use this service to make my life easier. You still got to pay the fee and a surcharge by the branch to cover the photography service.
Take your papers!
I set off and immediately had to return home as I had forgotten my licence paper copy and photo card. With these in hand, I set off again and joined the queue at the local post office. Luckily they are an efficient team and I was seen to in no time. The first member of staff wasn't trained on the white booth machine so I had to wait for another member of staff to attend to me. I just handed over all the paper work and she got me to sign the form and stand and gawp at the screen in the booth.
Don't say Cheese
No smiling is allowed so I had to just gaze intelligently into nothing. I remembered to tilt my head upwards, a trick learned from my Dad to avoid the dreaded double chin. She didn't count me down or anything (I think it was like a web cam she was operating her side of the counter). But she did flash the picture on screen and ask if it was OK. It wasn't much better than OK but I didn't want to make a fuss and risk getting a worse picture so I agreed to it and then she handed me a stylus and asked me to sign a box on the screen, it's a bit difficult doing this at a 90 degree angle but you could have another go if it wasn't good enough.
Once that bit was over, it was time to pay. The renewal costs an un barter able £20 and the extra processing fee from the Post Office was £4.99 (at my branch). I was quite annoyed at having to part with £24.99 for a new photo license but if you want to drive, I suppose you have no option.
The lady handed me a receipt and advised me to keep it in my glove box as I was sending off my old driving licence in the post, she said the receipt would keep the police happy should I get stopped in the meantime.
Within approximately five working days, the new photo licence had arrived, dated until 01-06-2022 with a fortunately small picture on it.
Whilst I begrudge the fee for a new license, I can't fault the service that I received at the Post Office. The return service from DVLA was prompt and problem free. I would certainly recommend taking the white booth route that I took if that service is available at a branch near you. I can understand that photographs do date and ten years can make a difference in a person's appearance. It doesn't stop my parent's generation fondly reminiscing their own paper with no photo licenses and the times when tests were all taken on the road with no theory part to swot up on. Everyone who drives has a story about their driving test(s) and it seems these have got more difficult over the years. I do wonder how much the photo database is used by joint agencies, for instance I know the donor service is in partnership with DVLA, and clearly they are liaising with the passport database. It seems that the photo license is pretty close to the UK photo identity card that a lot of people were against when it was proposed a few years ago.
Photo driving licenses will help the police when checking drivers on the roads and can prevent people driving under licences that are not their own. I think that it would be better if the UK adopted a similar system to the USA where people have to carry their license with them when on the road. When you get your renewal letter, you can have a moan about parting with the money for the new license but at least at £20 it is not an extortionate fee.