Highway Statistics 1996


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. A summary of State driver licensing require ments is given in a separate publication, Driver License Administration Requirements and Fees, published biennially. There is also a companion publication entitled State and Provincial Licensing System Comparative Data that may be obtained from the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, 4301 Wilson Blvd, Suite 400, Arlington, VA 22203.


Table DL-1 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.


DL-1C displays not only the number of male/female license holders, but also the relationship of licensed drivers to total 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. The map showing this detail that was at the end of the chapter has been eliminated.

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 some timescounted 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 prob lem 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 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.


In 1990 (Highway Statistics 1989), a strict standard was established to determine the number of unrestricted drivers under the age of 16 on the road. This new rule stated that a driver must be able to drive inclusively be tween the hours of 5:00 A.M. and 12 Midnight without another licensed driver in the vehicle. Since this new standard cut the number of drivers from 1988 to 1996 substantially in the "under 16" category, one must keep this in mind when comparing the data from earlier years. 

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