Highway Statistics 1998

Section III

DRIVER LICENSING

Each State and the District of Columbia administers its own driver licensing system. Since 1954 all States have required drivers to be licensed, and since 1959 all States have required examination prior to licensing. Tests of knowledge of State driving laws and practices, vision, and driving proficiency are now required for new licensees. The summary of State driver licensing requirements has previously been in a separate biennial publication, Driver License Administration Requirements and Fees. The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators has combined this publication with a companion publication by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration entitled State and Provincial Licensing System Comparative Data. The combination of these two reports will eliminate any duplication in effort and give you all information pertinent to obtaining an operator or commercial license in any State or Province of Canada.

LICENSES ISSUED AND IN FORCE

Table DL-1 (72K PDF) shows the number of learner permits and driver licenses issued by each State during the calendar year, length of term, renewal date, fees, and the number of driver licenses in force by class at the end of the year.

MALE-FEMALE LICENSE HOLDER AND RATIO TO POPULATION

DL-1C (13K PDF) displays not only the number of male/female license holders, but also the relationship of licensed drivers to total resident population and to driving-age (age 16 and over) population. This table also shows the ratio of licensed drivers to registered private and commercial vehicles.

Since there will always be persons of driving age who will not be licensed, by choice or because of physical or mental infirmities, the relationships shown normally should never reach 1,000. However the following conditions can make the relationships higher than expected:

(1) Although efforts are made to minimize it, drivers who move from one State to another are sometimes counted in both States until the license from the previous State of residence expires.

(2) Some persons obtain their driver licenses in States other than those of legal residence.

(3) Some persons fraudulently obtain multiple licenses. Some State authorities doubt whether all persons who drive are licensed. Where this problem exists, those that are unlicensed would partially offset any duplicate licenses issued and inactive licenses. The degree to which this occurs is unknown.

(4) The purging of expired licenses or licenses from deceased persons is not done on a continual basis.

The distribution of total U.S. licensed drivers, by sex and age group, is shown in table DL-20.

DL-22 (42K PDF)displays the number of drivers by sex and age groups for each State. For the States that do not provide the driver license data broken out to the top age bracket of 85 and over, we have redistributed the last age bracket provided by each State according to the Census population data for those particular age brackets in that particular State.

USE OF DATA

Since 1990, a strict standard has been used to determine the number of unrestricted drivers under the age of 16 on the road: a driver must be able to drive inclusively between the hours of 5:00 A.M. and 12 Midnight without another licensed driver in the vehicle. This standard cut the number of drivers from 1988 to 1996 substantially in the "under 16" category and one must keep this in mind when comparing the data from earlier years.

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United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration