31 years to get a correct driving license

I have a very particular reason for disliking the DVLA as, due to one single typographical error, they have left me scarred with a feeling of existential confusion. From the point I was first issued with a driving license in 1987 I have been faced with a variety of situations where representatives of UK governmental organisations have informed me that I don’t exist. There are many reasons for my liking the author Terry Pratchett, his apparent understanding that real life frequently makes fiction appear entirely mundane is something I have had cause to repeatedly appreciate

The error? My date of birth!

It isn’t perhaps the fact that it took so long to get a simple error corrected on my driving license, it is that the error was overlooked or accepted by so many official organisations for 31 years, that astounds me.

Insurance and car hire companies, the Police and Magistrates all would be able to see the discrepancy between my stated date of birth and what my driving license purported, yet none of these agencies could engage as an officially recognised reporter of an inconsistency and assist me to get it rectified.

Yet now, after 31 years, I have received a correct driving license. Not as a result of the most recent set of communications directly with the DVLA but as a result of an email to a person of influence, using this blog post to highlight the ludicrous nature of the issue, especially since my attempt to get the mistake rectified in 2018 still met with precisely the same failure as 25-30 years previously. I can only say that refusing to give up and following exceptional paths to resolve exceptional issues can sometimes be the only way to succeed.

The remainder of this post was written before the arrival of the license and so relevant only before October 2018.

After giving up in defeat and deciding to live with the situation, along came the plastic license and online linking of government services. After trying to validate myself on three government websites, I had to face the fact that once again, as far as computer validation is concerned, I do not exist. It appears that from June of 2015, I will not even be able to retrieve my driving license details from the DVLA if I need to hire a car.

Remarkable then one may say that I have been driving and riding on the UK roads with what is accepted as a valid British Driving License for 31 years! I have a passport, can register to vote and hold an NI number even. If being entirely accurate (which is the point of this whole situation) I do not have a valid driving license as it does not hold correct information for me. It states that I was born three days later than I actually was. Simple mistake. Not exactly a problem one might think. I cannot begin to express how wrong that is unless I go through each and every time it has caused me grief these past 31 years.

“Well, why didn’t you contact the DVLA/C and tell them to change it?” Is often the first thing I hear when describing the situation and my responses vary depending on just how annoyed I am about the situation at the time or in not considering that I may have done so in the course of 31 years.

From, “Do you know that never crossed my mind”, “Oh really, thanks for the idea” to “No shit Sherlock” or you may just receive a random spattering of expletives in the most extreme cases interspersed with the expression “DVL….ingA!”.

Here’s a rundown the main things I and others attempted for several years until finally admitting defeat. For then.

  • A letter to the DVLC with copy of birth certificate.
  • A request for a copy license amended on an official DVLC form to reflect the correct DOB. (No place on the form to amend DOB though so I fear it did not compute)
  • A statement taken in person by a Police officer, at my mother’s house, in her presence, with a copy of my birth certificate and passport viewed by the Police officer combined with a witness statement who was present on the date in question. (This was ironically a visit made at the request of the DVLC to retrieve a license they didn’t issue to me and, considering I don’t exist, that was not much of a surprise to me by that point)
  • A request made by me to three magistrates sitting at a court case relating to a driving offense, to relay their understanding of my correct DOB and it being incorrectly recorded on my driving license. (This was the case where my inadvertent and innocent comment was seen to be taking the mickey out of the magistrate. Magistrate: “We have spoken to the DVLC and they have confirmed you do not have a license.” Me: “Well what’s this then?” (holding up my license to guffaws from the entire courtroom barring one magistrate and a red faced me!)
  • A letter sent in 2018, acknowledged by the DVLA with a reply asking to send a fee and form, including my letter, the response from the DVLA saying they would sort it. What I got, a replacement license with the wrong date of birth again.

For many years, except for when dealing with officials or those sad few (mostly bouncers) who would delight in showing they could decipher a DOB from the jumbled driver number, it wasn’t a major issue. On most occasions, nobody would notice. Then along came the photo license.. DOB prominently on the front and still obviously incorrect.

So it starts to nag at me again that I still have to suffer this inaccuracy unresolved. A license check done by police at the side of the road a few years ago brought it all back. I was actually breathalysed as a result of my reaction when told I didn’t have a valid license as I had forgotten to lie with my incorrect DOB. In fairness I only growled “Oh, bloody DVLA, I’m still having to go through this after all these bloody years!” but my swift change of attitude was obviously of concern to the officers!

What entirely amazed me about this situation was not the fact that I didn’t receive a ticket nor that I was needlessly breathalysed for becoming mildly irate, it was the fact that contrary to what computer and DVLA records stated, two Police officers were willing to accept my word against the records held by the DVLA when the details checked out ok with the wrong DOB.

It speaks volumes for what high regard such information is held, as it is doubtful I am that convincing (Then again I have noted that members of the Police appear act differently when people are honest with them, must be the novelty factor).

Shall I try again now? Is the whole reason for this situation down to one simple factor? Did the DVLA computer system store the DOB value as a read-only attribute as it was obviously never expected to change? If so, was it impossible in the 1980s/90s to change my details so any request to do so was ignored by the DVLA?

Vitally, does that situation still exist today? Could I now contact someone at the DVLA and get this changed? Should I actually care after being ignored for 31 years?

Yes I do because now that UK government computer systems are being linked to allow cross referencing of information to the benefit of all, I will now find this predicament more frequently causing trouble in validating my identity.

  • If I log onto the DVLA and enter my correct information, the DVLA computer says I don’t exist. I cannot then proceed with any online function to do with my license.
  • If I log onto the DVLA with my incorrect DOB and am then allowed to proceed on their site, when I am validated against HMRC or Passport Office databases, I don’t exist.

It will be interesting to see if this starts to work in reverse when validating myself on other government web services. Hopefully not too much as the DVLA aren’t exactly a competent authoritative service, well I hope my NI number, Passport and HMRC records will trump the DVLAs.

It is bizarre after all to consider that even with all the logical and common sense proof to the contrary, this situation actually instilled a doubt that still sits at the back of my mind. I’ve been through enough experiences in my life to wonder what is real and what is not, I certainly didn’t need this one also!

We’ll see. I’ve another reason to contact the DVLA that I’m going to attempt this year, I dislike their recent breaking of one of the principles of British law for no apparent reason other than to raise more revenue in a stealth tax. The damnable SORN and the demise of the car tax disc in DVLA post part II to follow…

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