Motorists have renewed driver licences in record numbers over the first two months of this year.
The Automobile Association confirmed January and February were the two highest driver licence renewal months since new photographic licences were introduced in 1999. VTNZ and VINZ also reported a similar spike in renewals.
New Zealand Transport Agency spokesperson Andy Knackstedt said a 12 per cent jump was recorded nationally between the first two months of this year. In January, 7,861 people renewed expired licences, rising sharply to 8,816 in February - around an extra 200 people a week.
The Herald on Sunday revealed last month that there were nearly 500,000 expired driver licences. Many motorists on the road were unaware they risked a $400 fine and were possibly uninsured.
In the first two months of this year, nearly 200 drivers have had to apply for new licences after letting their licence lapse for more than five years.
An NZTA spokesperson said 198 requalification applications were granted in January and February.
AA spokesperson Rachel Honey said last month's figures were up 10 per cent on the same time last year, with 16,515 renewals in February compared to 15,046 last year.
Staff reported many customers renewing their licences were shocked to realise they had had been driving on an expired licence.
It was thanks to media coverage that they were alerted to the oversight, said Honey.
In a number of cases those with expired licences had moved house and had not received a reminder in the post. Many did not realise the NZTA had to be advised of new addresses, she said.
VTNZ marketing and communications manager Renee Campbell-Scott said there was a 9 per cent rise in licence renewals for the first two months of this year compared with the start of last year.
VINZ also reported a "huge" increase nationwide in licence renewals last month, with many customers bringing in expired licences after reading the Herald on Sunday, said a spokesperson.
Campbell-Scott said motorists could renew licences within a year of expiry and would not lose any time on the new licence.
Back on right side of law
This week, North Shore fitness trainer Lisa Cook queued for more than half an hour to renew her driver's licence nearly two years after it had expired.
Cook, 46, from Auckland's North Shore, said she had no idea her licence was so out of date. She hadn't received a reminder or been asked to show her licence to anyone since getting the short-life photo ID card.
So it was thanks to our story last month on expired driver licences that she looked at the expiry date just to see what it was.
"I even commented to my partner 'who doesn't have their licence renewed?' Then I checked mine and found I was one of the culprits."
She said she went in at the earliest possible opportunity to renew her licence, which ran out in April 2011.
She has to wait up to three weeks for her replacement photographic ID card to arrive but Cook is relieved she is now on the right side of the law and covered by insurance.
"I'm all legal now."