Driving licence renewal - can you still drive if you don't have a current licence?

If you’ve applied for a new driving licence and your current one runs out before it arrives, are you legally allowed to carry on driving?...

Older drivers

There are some circumstances when you are allowed to carry on driving even though you don’t have a valid licence. The law giving you this right is in Section 88 of The Road Traffic Act 1988. 

It states that if you have applied to the DVLA to renew your licence and it expires while it is processing the application, you can carry on driving as long as you meet the following criteria: 

1. You have been told by your doctor that you are fit to drive. 

2. You meet any conditions that were specified on your previous driving licence and that still apply. 

3. You sent your licence renewal application to the DVLA within the past 12 months. 

4. You have not been disqualified from driving by a court. 

Extensions to driving licences

The DVLA was severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, and as a result any driving licences that expired between 1 February and 31 December 2020 were automatically extended for 11 months. However, it is now operating fully again, so there is no extension for licences that expired on or after 1 January 2021. 

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In the UK, all car drivers are required by law to renew their driving licence every three years when they reach the age of 70.

You should receive an application form from the DVLA three months before your 70th birthday and you can use this to apply for a new licence, or you can do so online. You may need to supply a current passport-sized photograph with the form. 

You must tell the DVLA if you develop a problem with your eyesight, such as glaucoma. Around one in 20 people aged 80 or over develop glaucoma, but only 12% of those have to give up driving because of the condition.

If you develop glaucoma in both eyes, you will be required to have a visual field eye test at a branch of Specsavers as part of the process of renewing your licence. If the glaucoma only affects one eye, you don’t need to tell the DVLA about it or have the eye test. 

The glaucoma eye tests were put on hold during the past year, but appointments are now being sent out to people who need them. 

If you are in this group and are waiting for an appointment, you can carry on driving under Section 88 if your licence expires before you are able to get your eye test as long as your doctor confirms you are fit to drive.

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