Government planning ‘provisional’ driving licence for South Africa

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

While details around the licence are scarce, the department indicated in a presentation on the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill to parliament last week (13 October), that current regulations will be amended to include three types of driving licences in the country.

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

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.

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 licence after receiving a learner’s licence.

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. They begin by acquiring a learner’s permit, progress to a provisional license, followed by receipt of a full driver’s licence.

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

What the 2014 proposals say 

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.

Under proposals, applicants for a provisional driving licence would still need to be examined and tested by an examiner for driving licences.

This examiner shall by observation, inquiry and practical test, satisfy himself or herself that the applicant:

  • Holds a learner’s licence which authorises him or her to drive the class of motor vehicle to which his or her application relates;
  • Knows and understands the road traffic signs;
  • 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;
  • Is not subject to any disqualification;
  • Is generally capable of driving a motor vehicle of the class to which the application relates.

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

  • Committed six traffic-related offences;
  • Is found guilty for driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drug having narcotic effect, or with an alcohol in blood or breath;
  • Exceeded the prescribed speed limit;
  • 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
  • Not completed the provisional driving licence logbook as shown on all trips undertaken within a driving time of a minimum of 60 hours.

The holder of a provisional driving licence shall drive a motor vehicle displaying a red letter “P” which is facing out from the rear of the vehicle in a manner that the letter “P” is clearly visible and the colour is distinguishable from a distance of 20 metres behind the vehicle.

The proposals state that the applicant must be the holder of a provisional driving licence for a period not exceeding 12 months before applying for a driver’s licence.

The applicant will then be granted a driving licence if he or she:

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

The Department of Transport had not responded to queries at the time of writing.


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Government planning ‘provisional’ driving licence for South Africa