Driving without a license? Why do high penalties and imprisonment threaten

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According to Statistics Austria, over the past five years (2018-2022), more than 2,400 people were involved in accidents without a valid driving license. On average, that’s nearly 500 people with license possession” on their accident record. Ten “apparent” drivers died in accidents in 2022 – seven with passenger cars, two with motorcycles, and one with mopeds. “However, the number of those registered in accidents without a driving license is probably just the tip of the iceberg. The number of unreported cases must be much higher – for example; there are no current figures on how many ‘persons without a license’ are caught during traffic controls. Not to mention those who drive undetected without a license,” explains ÖAMTC traffic psychologist Marion Seidenberger.

Most people caught driving without the prescribed driving license were under 40 years of age. And with 88 percent it was almost exclusively men. Regarding vehicle type, quad drivers lead the negative statistics with a 5.6 percent share, followed by work machine, moped and motorcycle drivers.

It is mainly men who are on the road without a driver’s license, knows ÖAMTC traffic psychologist Marion Seidenberger.

According to ÖAMTC, there are several reasons why people are on the road without a driving license. Some people – for reasons of time, convenience or cost – have never obtained a driver’s license. Or they have not passed the driving test. Or they’re too young.

Sometimes “shameless” driving is a mistake or ignorance – if you don’t have the correct driving privileges for the motor vehicle. “Legal changes can also affect driving privileges – the moped driving license has only been around in Austria for ten years,” says Seidenberger. There are also different regulations for quads depending on the motorization and size. The expert advises ensuring you have the authorization before putting any motor vehicle into operation.

Police can revoke driving privileges for gross offences such as drunk and drugged driving, multiple red light violations or speeding. There are then specific guidelines for reinstatement. “You should stick to these and under no circumstances ‘drive while black.’ That only makes things worse,” warns the ÖAMTC expert and clarifies: “No matter for what reason you do not have a driving license: It is a no-go and strictly forbidden to operate a motor vehicle without having the necessary driving license. Anyone who disregards this must expect consequences.” Nevertheless, it does happen.

If one drives a motor vehicle entirely without a driving license, regardless of whether it was never made or withdrawn, one must expect a fine of 363 euros to 2,180 euros. If you cannot pay the fine, you can alternatively be sentenced to up to six weeks imprisonment. This is also an example for those with a B driving license but are driving a vehicle for which class A is required. As the number of offenses increases, so does the severity of the penalty. “Anyone who offences for the second time for driving a vehicle without a driver’s license can immediately face a prison sentence of six weeks instead of a fine. From the third time onwards, the fine and imprisonment can even be imposed simultaneously,” informs ÖAMTC lawyer Matthias Wolf.

Anyone who has lost or forgotten their driver’s license and cannot show it – or a notice of loss – at a police checkpoint must expect a fine of at least 20 euros.

Suppose you are involved in an accident without a driving license. In that case, this also has consequences under insurance law: The insurance company can refuse liability and assert recourse claims – the damages of the other party involved in the accident must then be paid for by yourself. Incidentally, this also applies to privately rented or lent vehicles: anyone who lets other people use their vehicle must ensure they have the appropriate driving license. Otherwise, there is no insurance coverage without a driver’s license if an accident occurs.

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