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New driver’s license proposed for South Africa

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The Department of Transport has indicated that it plans to introduce a ‘provisional’ driver’s licence in South Africa.

While details around the license are scarce, the department indicated in a presentation on the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill to parliament on 13 October 2020, that current regulations will be amended to include three types of driving licenses in the country.

  • A learner’s license;
  • A provisional driving;
  • A driving license.

The bill is still in the draft proposal stage and is subject to a full public participation process and governmental scrutiny.

While the department did not provide further information on how provisional licences will work and how they fit into the current regime in its presentation, the government has previously mooted the introduction of a new graduated licence system, noted Howard Dembovsky, chairperson of the Justice Project South Africa.

In a nutshell, persons who pass their theory test will not be issued a full driving licence initially

– Howard Dembovsky, chairperson of the Justice Project South Africa

Dembovsky said that an explanation of provisional licences was proposed as far back as 2014 as part of proposed changes to the National Road Traffic Act.

“In a nutshell, persons who pass their theory test will not be issued a full driving licence initially,” Dembovsky said. Instead, they will be issued a provisional driving licence and subjected to restrictions in their driving practices, for a period of time, until they earn a full driving licence.”

Dembovsky said that the concept of ‘graduated driving licences’ is not new and is in use in many countries. However, he cautioned that the introduction of a new licence system may not suit South Africa.

“It is my view that whoever drafted these regulations was either not paying proper attention when observing those systems, or did not investigate them at all. Furthermore, I do not know how practical the provisions will be in the South African context,” he said.

South Africa’s licensing system is currently time-based, with an individual given two years to get their driver’s license after receiving a learner’s license.

Graduated driver licensing systems are designed to provide new drivers of motor vehicles with driving experience and skills gradually over time in low-risk environments. There are typically three steps or stages through which new drivers pass.

  1. New drivers begin by acquiring a learner’s permit then,
  2. progress to qualifying for a provisional license then,
  3. obtain their full driver’s license.

Graduated drivers’ licensing generally restricts night, highway, and unsupervised driving during initial stages, but lifts these restrictions over time with further testing of the individual, eventually concluding with the individual attaining a full driver’s licence.

The proposal also mentions the introduction of a logbook in which an applicant is required to record total driving time.

– – HOWARD DEMBOVSKY, CHAIRPERSON OF THE JUSTICE PROJECT SOUTH AFRICA

What the 2014 proposals says: 

The 2014 draft amendments to the National Road Traffic Act indicate that a learner’s licence will be a requirement for a provisional driver’s licence – effectively slotting in between the current learner’s and driver’s licence.The proposal also mentions the introduction of a logbook in which an applicant is required to record total driving time.

Other elements of the proposal, include the fact that applicants for a provisional driving licence would still need to be examined and tested by an examiner for driving licences.  The examiner shall by observation, inquiry and practical test, satisfy himself or herself that the applicant:

  1. Holds a learner’s license which authorizes him or her to drive the class of motor vehicle to which his or her application relates;
  2. Knows and understands the road traffic signs;
  3. Has a sound knowledge of the rules of the road, other traffic-related matters and the different signals which a driver of a motor vehicle is required to give when driving on a public road;
  4. Is not subject to any disqualification;
  5. Is generally capable of driving a motor vehicle of the class to which the application relates.

The proposals state that the provisional driving license will be suspended for a period of 24 months if the holder has within the period of 12 months after obtaining such license:

  1. Committed six traffic-related offences;
  2. Is found guilty for driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drug having narcotic effect, or with an alcohol in blood or breath;
  3. Exceeded the prescribed speed limit;
  4. Operated a motor vehicle which exceeded the number of persons on any seat of the vehicle for which the seating capacity is provided for; or
  5. Not completed the provisional driving licence logbook as shown on all trips undertaken within a driving time of a minimum of 60 hours.

The applicant will then be granted a diving license if he or she:

  1. Holds or has previously held a provisional driving licence issued in accordance with the provisions of this Act;
  2. Submit a duly completed provisional driving licence logbook, signed by the applicant and an authorised officer or officers;
  3. Holds a provisional driving licence which is not suspended.

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