The South African media witnessed uproar last week after comments made by Gauteng Chief Magistrate Daniel Thulare. The magistrate was quoted in the Sowetan as saying that that “any conviction for a citizen driving without a licence will be unlawful if the state has failed to test that person”. This in effect is saying that that you can drive without a driving licence if you can prove that your learner’s licence has expired after you tried to be tested several times but to no avail.
Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele has reacted immediately and indicated that the Department will be referring to the Magistrates’ Commission the comments attributed to Magistrate Thulare. Minister Ndebele said that the Republic of South Africa is one, sovereign, democratic state founded on, amongst other values, supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law.
What does the law say about driving without a license?
According to the National Road Traffic Act (Act 93 of 1996), any person who drives a motor vehicle on a public road must be in possession of a valid driving licence. Therefore, it is illegal to drive a motor vehicle without a valid driving licence. In the event of a collision, the driver will be charged for being unlicensed and a civil claim for damages may also be instituted against an unlicensed driver. An unlicensed driver not only poses a threat to his/her own safety but also to the safety of other road users.
The Department of Transport warns road users that any driver who is not in possession of a valid driving licence will be arrested.
What are the insurance implications when driving without a valid drivers’ license?
The South African Insurance Association (SAIA) has also noted the comments by Magistrate Daniel Thulare and expressed concern:
“Whilst it is acknowledged that there are challenges in the driver’s licence booking system, the SAIA cannot support the statement made by Judge Thulare. It is against the law to drive without a valid driver’s license. Insurance policy terms and conditions support the law of the country, and require that a driver authorised to drive an insured vehicle should hold a valid driver’s licence.
The insurance industry will not honour any claims where individuals driving a vehicle are not in possession of the relevant valid driver’s license, as required by the terms and conditions of the policy,” says Refilwe Moletsane, SAIA Deputy Executive.
“If a driver is a learner licence holder, the laws pertaining to learner licence drivers should similarly be adhered to,” continues Mrs Moletsane.
The SAIA urges all motorists on South African roads to do their utmost to abide by the law and to not be tempted to drive without a valid driver’s license. In addition, the SAIA urges the Department of Transport to address the issues around the licensing system as a matter of urgency in order to alleviate any problems.
We would like to warn all road users to abide by the law – and the law states clearly that you may only drive when in possession of a valid license or learner license. Your car insurance policy will not protect you from damage caused if the driver is not in possession of such a license!