Your Driver's License FAQ
Answers to questions on driving outside of your state and country, driving with a suspended or revoked license and driving when you're over 65.

Is my driver's license good in every state?
If you have a valid license from one state, you may use it in other states that you visit. But if you make a permanent move to another state, you'll have to take a trip to the local department of motor vehicles to apply for a new license. Usually, you must do this within 30 days after moving to the new state. Most states will issue your new license without requiring tests, though some may ask you to take a vision test and a written exam covering basic driving rules.

In some situations, you may be unsure as to whether you need to apply for a new license. If you make frequent business trips to another state, or even if you attend school in a state away from home, there's no need to get another driver's license. But when you set up housekeeping in the new state and pay taxes there as well, it's time to apply.

Young Drivers Who Cross State Lines
Adults who visit another state may rely on their driver's licenses, but the same may not be true for young drivers. The driving age varies significantly from state to state (from 15 to 21), and a state that makes people wait longer to drive may not honor a license from a state that issues licenses to younger folks. For example, New Jersey issues licenses to 17-year-olds, and will recognize a license from any other state if the driver is at least 17. But a 16-year-old who is legally permitted to drive in New York may not be allowed to drive in New Jersey. A young driver who plans to drive in another state where the legal limit is above his or her age should call that state's department of motor vehicles to find out what the rules are.
 
If I get a ticket in another state, will it affect my driver's license?
Forty-eight states belong either to an agreement called the "Driver's License Compact" or the "Non-Resident Violator Compact." (The only states that don't belong to one or the other are Michigan and Wisconsin.) When you get a ticket in one of these states, the department of motor vehicles will relay the information to your state -- and the violation will affect your driving record as if the ticket had been given at home.

Can I use my driver's license in a foreign country?
Many countries, including the United States, have signed an international agreement allowing visitors to use their own licenses in other nations. Before traveling to another country, contact its consulate office or embassy to find out whether your license will be sufficient; you can find the phone number in your telephone book's white pages under the name of the country. Or, you can visit the U.S. State Department Website at http://www.travel.state.gov.

In addition, you may want to obtain an International Driver's Permit, issued by the American Automobile Association. This document translates the information on your driver's license into ten languages. Many countries require the permit, not because it meets their requirements for a license, but because it is a ready-made copy of the important information on your American license.

Finally, if you intend to stay in another country for an extended period of time, you should check with the consular office to find out whether you'll need to apply for a license in that country. Every country will have its own rules about when a "visit" turns into something more permanent.

When can my driver's license be suspended or revoked?
Driving a car is considered a privilege -- and a state won't hesitate to take it away if a driver behaves irresponsibly on the road. A state may temporarily suspend your driving privileges for a number of reasons, including:

In addition, many states use a "point" system to keep track of a driver's moving violations: Each moving violation is assigned a certain number of points. If a driver accumulates too many points within a given period of time, the department of motor vehicles suspends her license.

If you have too many serious problems as a driver, your state may take away (revoke) your license altogether. If this happens, you'll have to wait a certain period of time before you can apply for another license. Your state may deny your application if you have a poor driving record or fail to pass any required tests.

Finally, a few states revoke or refuse to renew driver's licenses of parents who owe back child support.

My elderly friend is becoming unsafe at the wheel. Will her license be taken away?
The number of drivers over 65 years old has more than doubled in the last 20 years. At present, there are 13 million older drivers; by the year 2020 there will be 30 million. Studies show that, as a group, older drivers drive less than younger drivers, but they have more accidents per mile.

Elderly, unsafe drivers who continue to drive despite the advice of family and friends often do not come to the attention of the state until the inevitable -- the driver is stopped for erratic driving or, worse, he or she is involved in an accident. A few states try to screen out unsafe older drivers by requiring more frequent written tests. But the added tests are expensive and don't always identify unsafe driving habits.

All licensing departments accept information from police officers, families and physicians about a driver's abilities. If a licensing agency moves to cancel someone's license as the result of an officer's observations, an accident or the report of family members or a doctor, the driver usually has an opportunity to protest.

Should I lie on my driver's license renewal application?
Many states will ask you specific questions regarding your health when you renew your driver's license. For example, you might receive a questionnaire that asks you whether you have ever had seizures, strokes, heart problems, dizziness, eyesight problems or other medical troubles. If you have medical problems and answer the questions truthfully, an examiner may question you further and may even deny you a license. If you don't tell the truth, you may get your license, but you're setting yourself up for big legal trouble if you are in an accident caused by one of these impairments. It's not that different from driving a car when you know the brakes are bad: If you go out on the road with defective equipment that you know about, you greatly increase the chance that you will be held responsible if the defect causes an accident.

What will happen if I'm caught driving with a suspended or revoked license?
You'll probably be arrested. Driving with a suspended or revoked license is usually considered a crime that carries a heavy fine and possibly even jail time. At worst, it may be a felony; you could end up in state prison or with an obligation to perform many hours of community service. The penalties will probably be heaviest if the suspension or revocation was the result of a conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI)