Fleet News

Legislation: Expired photos do not invalidate driving licences

Michael Pace, partner and head of motor law and PI team, Andrew & Co LLP

Despite a new driving licence design coming into effect this month, there remains one area of it that’s still likely to cause drivers and fleet managers problems: the 10-year photograph expiry date.

This past year, in my capacity as a motoring law solicitor, I’ve heard of a number of instances where 4b on the licence has caused confusion. It’s the date at which your photo expires or, as the reverse of the licence puts it, ‘licence valid to’.

However, this is where the confusion starts as it suggests the licence itself expires on that date, which it doesn’t.

To find the actual expiry date, look at column 11 on the back of your licence where the date printed commonly coincides with your 70th birthday.

Worryingly, the ‘confusion’ has led to some police forces threatening to impound vehicles for not having valid driving licences, and to driving instructors turning away motorists from driver improvement courses because insurance companies claimed they were not covered without ‘valid’ licences.

Having contacted the DVLA, I can confirm that the date at 4b is when only the photo expires. Your licence remains valid until such time as the DVLA revokes it, and that requires written notice.

Contrary to some police officers, out-of-date photos do not invalidate licences.

The actual offence committed is failing to notify DVLA of up-to-date information, contrary to s.99.5 of the Road Traffic Act. Not, as has been suggested, ‘driving otherwise than in accordance with a driving licence’.

Failing to update your photo is a non-endorseable offence although it could carry a fine.

When carrying out annual checks of employees’ licences, fleet managers should ensure that photos are valid.

This will avoid the need for legal advice if an overzealous police officer attempts to seize the vehicle or, if following an accident, an insurer refuses to indemnify.

Companies could also face allegations of aiding and abetting if the offence is committed by employees driving on company business, whether in their own vehicle or a company one.

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  • Andy B - 25/01/2013 15:59

    One of the most important and relevant articles reported in FN.

  • Marcos - 08/02/2013 11:47

    This article really should be given more coverage and sit on the front page for a while, much more relevant to Fleet Managers than "new version of this car and that car..."

  • Dave Evans - 11/07/2013 20:52

    Although a car driver, I am to glad to have read this and has settled an argument about picture driving licences. Brilliant

  • C Edwards - 19/08/2013 13:07

    I was stopped over the weekend and my photo was out of date. The police impounded my car and Im now faced with approx £200 towing fees to get it back. Having now seen this article I'll be complaining to the Police.

    • G Carswell - 28/01/2014 15:20

      @C Edwards - What was the result?

  • Muhammad Rehman - 27/09/2013 22:58

    I passed my driving test in October 2005 and today (27/09/2013), I received a reminder to renew my photo on driving licence. I thought the photo needs to be renewed every 10 years, but I got this reminder 3 years early? Have they changed the law or they just don't know what they are doing??

    • Helpi Helpersson - 31/01/2017 14:51

      I'd bet that the reminder relates to when you applied for your provisional licence - the photo is sent in at that point.

  • Tricia Murray - 29/01/2014 14:53

    Thanks for the advice . I've had my licence nearly ten years but only just noticed the other day my photo card licence has expired in August 2013 ! So I'm sorting that out now but it's good to know I can still drive .

  • jennifer watson - 27/03/2014 04:52

    I've only just learnt that mime is 5. Years without a new photo I have never recieved any notification I will of course get it done asap

  • Micky P - 31/03/2014 16:17

    Saved my bacon,booked holiday in USA and arranged car hire, photo expired 2013 and no time to renew now but first job on return.

  • John - 05/05/2014 05:11

    My mate has just been done for driving without insurance, based on the fact that his photo ID is out of date, which the police claimed invalidated his insurance, thus driving without insurance His car was impounded (£150 to get it back) despite his offer of leaving it by the side of the road, getting a taxi and his wife retrieving the car I'll show him this article....

  • Ray Wallis - 14/07/2014 13:45

    That's really helpful information, as it's not that clear.

  • Richard Playle - 20/07/2014 09:53

    Vvery good article. Gave me the info I required.

  • Mandy Baker - 28/07/2014 15:57

    Many thansk for the definitive info above. One further question about this is, although it is not an endorseable offence, can you confirm that having an out of date photo would not invalidate insurance. Just thinking about annual checks and the licence becoming invalid between checks.

  • Rachel Clare - 04/08/2014 14:25

    Really appreciate this - authoritative, clear - thanks for commissioning this (even if I am reading it a year later!)

  • Steve pike - 10/09/2014 11:03

    How does this relate to people taking theory & L test ??

  • Alan w - 27/09/2014 08:35

    Very helpful thanks

  • Bethan Thomas - 06/10/2014 21:34

    I have had a horrible few days thinking my driving licence had expired and I rushed up to DVLA and was told it was only my photo that was out of date relief and anger that I had not been informed earlier.

  • James Stevens - 15/10/2014 19:03

    I feel that if say for example an instructor took someone out with an out of date photo card, or the wrong address on the card that if a serious/fatal accident took place that the insurance company would wriggle it's way out of it's cover and the driver that "permitted" the drive would find himself in deep water, with little in the way of help.....try taking on an insurance company who has a large legal department....I have a feeling I know who would win. I think that the person driving, has full responsibility for their licence, it is not fair for them or a company to transfer the responsibility onto a driver/trainer/ADI. If the licence holder complies with their responsibility, the "fleet manager" their responsibilities, then there would be "no grey area"

  • peter bradley - 20/10/2014 17:11

    i had a accident were a dog hit my car i have to claim of my insurance as it will cost nearly 1500 to fix my driveing lience was out date two days before the accident how do i stand will my insurer pay out

  • Diana Rossiter - 11/12/2014 10:30

    This is a very good site, straight to the point and very helpful. My garage refused to loan me a car as my photo was out of date and said I was driving illegally with a £2000 fine. I will certainly print this page off and take it to them.

  • John Martin - 13/01/2015 11:30

    I have just been refused a courtesy car while my car was being repaired because the photo on my driving licence was out of date! This has really caused me 'loads' of problems!!!

  • Alistair Drummond - 19/01/2015 12:17

    The answer is for the Police point of view. It does not answer if ALL insurance companies will cover you if your Photocard has expired. Where do we find out. ????

  • KEVIN SPENCER - 28/01/2015 19:42


  • kevin spencer - 28/01/2015 19:46

    the fine is £1000

  • Nelifa - 03/02/2015 09:09

    Hi I have a question which I cannot seem to find an answer for. If a person had been disqualified and then in Nivemver 2014 their disqualification came to an end and they received a letter saying they need to renew their licence but they can still drive. Due to financial issues they had not been able to renew it and whilst driving they were stopped by the police, can the police officer endorse points or just a fine??

  • Alistair Drummond - 03/02/2015 15:16

    I have received a notification that some one has replied to my comment/question, but it does not say who. If it was from Kevin Spencer.... no that is not what I am saying. We have a law with a £1000 penalty, but no one can give a definitive answer if insurers will try and back out of cover. What is their legal position?????

  • Keren Curran - 11/04/2015 23:26

    important info here very handy

  • khan - 06/05/2015 11:09

    Hi my he recently passed his driving test and somebody insured his car on his fleets insurance and my asked him that he put his name on insurance that man said yes and allowed to drive then he start driving and police stop my friend and took car from and said that's ur car and u are not insured on it so if want ur car back u have to buy insurance on ur name if want ur car back he did it now he received letter from court that he was driving car without insurance and now he will get 6 points for that and fined but was paying insurance to that man for put his car and his name on fleet insurance is there any body can help him out what can do now

  • Jacqueline - 15/05/2015 15:01

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1054636/More-40-000-unwitting-motorists-face-1-000-fines-thousands-photocard-driving-licences-expire.html This article states insurance and eligibility to drive is not affected

  • Nick - 24/06/2015 10:20

    Brilliant article, thank you. I am a traffic officer and there is so much confusion over this change in the licence and what offence has been committed. It's only now comming into effect as photographs are now going out of date. Thanks again.

  • sofia jafar - 28/07/2015 16:37

    I dont live in the country and therefore can not renew my photo on my driving licence. I have been in contact with the DVLA about this. They confirmed that my licence is valid, which means I can drive when I am here, however my photo is not and hence if the police stop me I will be fined. So how is it that my licence is valid but invalid at the same time? They also said that the fine is done by the police not at the behest of the DVLA.

  • Gemma - 06/08/2015 18:37

    My pervisional driving license is out of date ( I just need to change the picture) but can I still use it as A form of ID for a festival, pubs ect because I don't drive.

  • Phil George - 14/08/2015 09:54

    Brilliant article, many thanks. I am a Driver CPC Instructor and there is so much confusion over this change in the licence and what offence has been committed. I have had to turn away drivers from CPC courses after being told that they cannot sit the course if the date on 4B of their licence is out of date. Thanks again.

  • Stephen - 21/09/2015 23:15

    Why is it when you go to dvla website ( share my licence) and put in your details if your photo is out of date , it says your licence is expired ? If your licence is still valid why does the dvla say its expired ?

  • Richard D - 19/10/2015 12:44

    The moral of this story is never carry your driving licence with you whilst driving in the UK, there is no legal requirement to do so and it avoids this sort of situation.

  • clive jones - 03/11/2015 10:18

    On new licences issued the column 4b refers to the expiry date of the licence and not the 10 yearly photograph expiry date. example. i have just renewed my licence and hold a LGV licence my LGV licence is valid for 5 years column 4a date of issue 27.06.2015, column 4b expiry date 26.06.2020. how to i check when my photogragh expires as i can't find this inforamtion on my photocard or DVLA printout.

  • Chas, B - 18/11/2015 17:10

    A photo license is a way of government forcing ID cards on everyone. an infringement on personal choice and human rights,in my opinion. with A.N.P.R. the police can check vehicles and their drivers in seconds nowadays. It is a nonsense to have to carry a photo of yourself around on a card. You do not have to display a tax disc, why have to have a photo license.No -just a case of big brother watching your every move again.Waste of money and resources. Some jobsworth somewhere, making up new silly rules and regulations which cost the tax paying general public a fortune in the name of progress or cutbacks.Tried to change your address on your driving license lately? what a load of red tape and nonsense that is, This is not the great Britain i was born in. The police used to be friendly and gain peoples respect.Now they do not patrol the streets they target motorists because they are easy targets.I am afraid that the police have a ,us against them attitude nowadays,treat the public as guilty until he can prove his own innocence.Your report is just one more example of the over zealous actions of heavy handed policing on an easy target.Of course: if the police have impounded someones car because of an out of date photo, but the license itself was still valid, it is a possibility that the police may have broken the law.

    • Simon - 15/03/2016 00:57

      Spot on with every aspect, wish I had written this. We are being slowly conditioned as a society in stealth mode by continuing governments.

  • Simon - 15/03/2016 00:53

    This should be on the .gov web sites. Typical government admin so confusing. This has settled an argument with my wife. Yet again I was wrong but you can see my typical error is easily made. Thank you for making this clear it is madness the way DVLA describes this so called 'out of date license' when it is NOT. Come on DVLA sort yourselves out!

  • Lucy - 14/06/2016 01:14

    Wow so I've been telling everyone my license is out of date because of my photo when all this time my license is still valid?! Also it's a rip-off as there is no proof the renewed photo is the person applying anyway because it doesn't require the signature of a legal professional like the original one did so how can they get away with demanding more money from us if they don't back it up properly?? I want to send a picture of Joan Jett do you think I'll get away with it....... :)

  • Malcolm Futers - 26/07/2016 21:29

    The information given is only partially correct. 4b means the photocard needs renewing but is not necessarily related purely to the photograph. HGV and PCV drivers may have to renew every five years and this will be shown at 4b. They will not need to renew the photo every time. This also applies to medically restricted licences which may last for 1,2 or 3 years. The reason instructors would advise you not to drive is the possible £1000 fine if you are stopped.

  • Edward Handley - 27/07/2016 17:28

    A little caution is needed here! Drivers who passed an ordinary driving test (categories A, B, BE, etc.) after January 2013 do not get licences valid till their 70th birthdays - they get 10 year licences so the photocard expiry and licence expiry dates will usually be the same, so they could indeed be prosecuted for not havinbg a valid licence. Drivers who passed vocational tests (Categories C1, C1E, C, CE, D1, D1E, D, and DE) after January 2013 get 5 year licences instead of getting a licence valid to their 45th birthday so the category entitlement will usually expire before the photocard. When checking licences it is important to check the front and the back of the licence and to carefully note the expiry date for the category required. It is also important to note any restriction codes as failing to comply with these can also mean a driver is driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence - for example 01 means eyesight correction required and driving without appropriate eyesight correction could mean a driver was unlicensed even though they hold a valid licence.

  • Anna - 21/08/2016 06:45

    Insurance companies should not be able to claim that people with expired photos are not insured. As the persons licence hasn't expired and it does not affect their risk they are just taking advantage and profiting from people's oversight. Surely this is something that the insurance ombudsman should take action on

  • Liz Jukes - 25/09/2016 13:20

    Thank you for the information regarding the licence valid dates, very good. thanks.

  • Ian - 28/09/2016 10:04

    So......................A colleague gets a reminder to renew her photo licence and does so online. There is no way to upload a new photo so she sends one by post immediately. renewed photocard licence arrives with same photo - cost £14. DVLA used her passport photo which is 8 years old! What a farce.

  • Den Harding - 09/11/2016 07:35

    Brilliant article Mr Pace - thank you.

  • M.Walker - 08/12/2016 16:18

    Has anyone been fined or prosecuted by the DVLA for the offence? Has anyone, stooped by the police, had their car impounded and reported for driving with no insurance, gained penalty points and fines, appealed? If so is there case law on this. My suggestion is that until there is case law there will continue to be confusion

  • P. Waldron - 01/04/2017 10:47

    Great reading but not sure where I stand now ? I phoned dvla yesterday to replace my license as I lost it only to be told it ran out in 2015 they have told me over the phone that I am not allowed to drive and have revoked my license until a replacement one has been received after I have filled in a d1 form

    • J - 03/05/2017 00:36

      That was probably because i. the time period that you've gone without updating your licence is relatively long (a couple of years), and ii. they would have warned you in advance that it needed updating. If it was only a few months out-of-date they (and the Police if you'd been stopped) would likely just have told you to get it done sharpish and warned you, not stopped you driving.

  • Ian Macdonald - 10/06/2017 21:05

    Trying to renew my licence on-line went OK until my passport number was requested, as my passport photo could be obtained for use on my licence. As I do not have a passport my application could not be done on-line. If I had one a photo, possibly up to ten years old may have been used, which as a passport photo I would not be able to wear my glasses in it. But according to the rules for driving licence photos, if glasses are worn in order to comply with the eye sight rules when driving, then they should be worn in the photo on the licence provided they have clear glass lenses. Possibly to allow the police when stopping you will have an extra thing to charge you with. (Not wearing glasses) Unfortunately, I found that the date at item 4b is this years date, so it needs to be done to prevent a further possible fine. There is never an easy way of filling in a government form.

  • Pam Callaghan - 01/09/2017 18:34

    This put my mind at ease , as i noticed recently, on my photo card, it expires in Jan, 2018....my 70th birthday in May 2018... Back of licence says til May 2018, also my paper licence confirms that,

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