Driver's licenses to last longer

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

AMES -- Plymouth County drivers renewing their licenses after Wednesday, Jan. 1 may not have to return in five years.

New legislation allows the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) to transition from five-year driver's licenses to eight-year licenses, according to a press release.

During the transition period, from 2014 through 2018, the DOT will randomly assign customers five-, six-, seven- or eight-year licenses.

That will be done using preset percentages to equally spread renewal volumes throughout the eight-year period, according to the DOT.

Keri Borchers, Plymouth County driver's license deputy, said those renewal dates cannot be changed by customers or licensing staff.

"We have no idea who is going to get what," she said. "You could end up with a five-year, six-year, seven- or eight-year license."

Borchers noted that drivers will not be able to call the county office to discover that information prior to renewing.

"It's going to be luck of the draw," she said. "It will be however it is in the computer."

At the end of the five-year transition period, all eligible Iowa drivers will have eight-year licenses, said Mark Lowe, director of the DOT motor vehicle division.

"We won't be continuing to do five-, six- or seven-year licenses," he said.

The yearly fee for driver's licenses will not change with the transition to eight-year licenses.

They will remain $4 per year for noncommercial licenses, $8 per year for commercial licenses and $2 per year for a motorcycle endorsement, Lowe said.

The Iowa DOT estimates switching to an eight-year license will save customers about $3.4 million annually and the DOT about $1.8 million annually, according to a press release.

"People will come in fewer times over the years," Lowe said. "That's where we will see the savings."

When the shift to eight-year licenses is fully implemented, there will be about 260,000 license renewals annually, according to the press release.

That will eliminate swings in renewal volumes, from as high as 530,000 in some years to as low as 275,000 in other years, the press release stated.

Some Iowa drivers, such as those under 18 and those age 72 and older, are not eligible for the eight-year license, Lowe explained.

Licenses issued to minors and people who are temporary foreign nationals have shorter renewal periods set by other statutes, according to the press release.

Age 72 is when driver's licenses shift to two-year renewal periods, the press release stated.

Issuance of identification cards (IDs) will not be included in the phased-in transition.

Instead, all ID cards issued after Wednesday will be valid for eight years and the fee will be $8, according to the press release.

Currently, Plymouth County receives $7 of the amount paid by customers for each driver's license or ID card it issues.

That dollar amount will not change with the transition to an eight-year license, Lowe said.

"The amount the county receives is set by code and is based on the amount of time it takes to issue a license," he said. "The legislation did not change that."

Borchers said she can see positives for extending driver's license renewals from five to eight years.

She said the county's drivers licensing issuers are always hearing from people that they want to keep their licenses longer.

"I think it will be a good thing," Borchers said. "I'm hoping I get the eight-year license when I renew in June."

For additional information about the DOT's driver's license types and fees, visit its website at www.iowadot.gov/mvd/ods/types.htm.

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