We asked 183,694 job seekers about their Driver's License. This is what they told us:
Driver's licenses are required documentation to drive legally throughout the United States and are held by 85% of those who are old enough to obtain them.1 Driver's licenses are issued individually by each of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Automobile drivers are required to hold driver's licenses in the state in which they reside. That means if a driver moves from one state to another, they are legally required to obtain a new license in the state reflecting their legal residence.
Throughout the United States, people become eligible to apply for their driver's licenses when they turn 16 – though some states allow children as young as 14 to apply for their learner's permits to practice driving with a licensed adult While individual documentation requirements and fees vary slightly from state to state, the general requirements for obtaining a driver's license remain the same throughout the United States: Provide documentation proving identity and residency and take written and road test to prove driver competency. The cost of obtaining a non-commercial driver's license ranges from $0-100.
The types of driver's licenses are consistent across all 50 states, according to federal transportation guidelines.2 While separate commercial driver's licenses are required for those who plan to drive for pay, the types of driver's licenses are consistent for both commercial and non-commercial drivers. The types of driver's licenses are:
A Class A driver's license is required for anyone who plans to drive any combination of vehicles with a combined weight of 11,794 kilograms or to tow a vehicle that weighs more than 4,536 kilograms. Class A driver's licenses enable operators to drive tractor trailers, flatbeds and livestock carriers. Additional endorsements can be added for tank vehicles, multiple trailers and vehicles containing hazardous materials.
A Class B driver's license allows for the legal operation of a single vehicle that has a gross weight of more than 11,794 kilograms, or any such vehicle that is towing something that weighs less than 4,536.
A Class C license is required for drivers who plan to operate a single vehicle that does not fit under the Class A or Class B guidelines and is designed to carry 16 or more people, including the driver, or that is used to transport hazardous materials as defined by the federal government's hazardous materials regulations.
A Class D or Class E driver's license is a standard, non-commercial driver's license, typically referred to as a private passenger license. Most states classify their general-issue driver's licenses as Class D or Class E.
Class M licenses are administered to those who plan to operate motorcycles.
Class V driver's licenses are required by those who plan to legal operate water vessels.
In 2005, U.S. Congress passed the REAL ID act to standardize the requirements for photo identification across the United States. Beginning in October of 2020, U.S. citizens will not be able to board a domestic airline flight without a REAL ID.3
Some states have replaced their tradition driver's licenses with REAL ID and are only issuing REAL ID-compliant documents. Others have an opt-in program that allows residents to choose between traditional driver's licenses, identification cards and REAL ID documents. Applicants who are seeking REAL ID driver's licenses must appear in person at their local driver's license issuance office and present documentation that proves their legal name, date of birth, Social Security number, legal address and legal status.4 The applicant must provide one document off of the Primary Document list and two documents from the Secondary Document; list. All documents must be originals to be accepted for REAL ID.
Accepted primary documents include:
Accepted secondary documents include:
To obtain a REAL ID driver's license, applicants must have a current state-issued driver's license or state identification card, or they must undergo the process for obtaining a driver's license. Note that if the applicant's name has changed from any of the provided documents, the applicant also must present documentation that proves the name change, such as a marriage license, divorce decree or adoption records.
All states follow the same format for issuing driver's licenses. In all U.S. states, drivers must be at least 16 years old of age.. For first-time drivers, the process of obtaining a driver's license is:
In a handful of states, additional tests or courses on the dangers of drugs and alcohol also are required. Some states require these for minor drivers, while others require that the test is taken by minor drivers renewing the provisional licenses awarded to teenagers to an unrestricted, adult license at the age of 21.
Drivers who already have driver's licenses issued by other states or other countries generally do not have to go through the process of obtaining a new driver's license and instead can take steps to transfer their old license to a license issued by their new state of residence.
If you hold a driver's license in one state and relocate permanently to another, you will have to obtain a new driver's license in your new state of residence. Most states require that new residents who are driving within the state obtain a new state-issued driver's license within 30 to 90 days. To obtain a driver's license in a new state, applicants must:
If a driver holds an expired license from a previous state of residence, they will sometimes be granted permission to obtain a new license by presenting their expired license and taking a written exam. When the license has been expired for an extended period of time – generally for two years or more – states will require that the driver begins the licensing process over again and takes both the written and road tests to earn a new driver's license.
Those who are looking to apply for a new driver's license or transfer an existing driver's license to a new state are encouraged to visit their state's website to verify the requirements of obtaining a driver's license. While state requirements are nearly standard across the board for renewal licenses or for transferring driver's licenses from a previous state, states may differ slightly in terms of the documentation or testing they require and some states require driver's license applicants to make appointments to visit a driver licensing office. However, those looking to apply for REAL ID driver's licenses will find standard documentation requirements as provided by the federal government.
Applicants also may find some online applications and forms to save time when applying for their driver's license. First-time driver's license applicants can find more information on testing and on specific training requirements via their state's website.
Information for individual state driver's licenses can be found through their respective page:
How Many Licensed Drivers are There in the US? Hedges Company. Retrieved November 2019.
Types of Driver's Licenses. AAA Digest of Motor Laws. Retrieved November 2019.
REAL ID. Homeland Security. Retrieved November 2019.
Real ID FAQ. Homeland Security. Retrieved November 2019.
Graduated licensing laws. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute. Retrieved November 2019.
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