Some Utah motorists whose licenses expire in 1992 will get a four-year extension, so staffers at Driver License Services have something to do in 1996.

A new state law raising the driver's license fee to $15 also extends the renewal cycle from four years to five beginning Oct. 1. That would have made 1996 an extremely dry year for renewals because new licenses and renewals issued before Oct. 1 would be on the current four-year cycle and those issued in 1992 and after wouldn't expire until 1997 or later.But administrators of the state agency as sure that won't happen because the law also allows for renewal extensions over the next few years to balance out the workload. Renewals account for about half the business conducted by the Driver License Services division.

"We want to stabilize our renewal business, otherwise we won't have any in 1996," said Bart Blackstock, records bureau chief.

To even out renewals in the next five years, Blackstock said, the agency plans to change its rules to offer a four-year extension to 25 percent of Utah drivers whose licenses expire in 1992.

Extensions until 1996 will also be given to a certain percentage of drivers up for renewal in 1993 and 1994.

Adjusting renewal dates wasn't in the original version of a bill that intended just to raise driver's license fees by $5. The money would go toward establishing satellite offices to cut down the long waits at the two offices in Salt Lake County.

"You can plan on spending a half day there if you need to take the driving test," said Utah Department of Public Safety spokesman Gary Whitney.

But once lawmakers got their hands on the request, licenses fees not only rose from $10 to $15, but the renewal cycle changed from four years to five. That's not all. Drivers with no more than four moving violations between renewals could qualify for renewal by mail - which increased to $12. The current law allows for only one violation every four years to renew by mail.

Although the fiscal note on the bill said the program would gain a net $175,000 from the fee increases, Public Safety officials grumbled that time extensions could wipe out any revenue gains and safe driving incentives.

"Allowing one ticket a year took away the incentive to keep a clean driving record" and qualify for the less expensive renewal by mail, Whitney said.

But Blackstock has tried to look at the bright side. "There was a lot of gnashing of teeth when it first came up, but the changes may be good," he said.

He explained that the number of renewals can fluctuate by as many as 50,000 from one year to the next, so the law's provision to provide extensions will allow the division to even out its workload and reduce the time it takes drivers to renew a license when they don't do it by mail.

Making renewal by mail $3 cheaper should also give more of an incentive to renew by mail, which should shorten lines at the driver license bureaus, Blackstock said. Motorists must renew their licenses in person every 10 years.


(Additional information)

Update that address . . .

You'll never know if you're among the 25 percent of residents eligible to receive a four-year expiration extension on your driver's license, unless the state has your correct address.

Many Utah motorists who can renew their licenses by mail don't do it, officials said, because the state mailed the notice and application to the address on record, which is wrong 15 percent of the time.

If you have moved since you last had your driver's license renewed, contact the state Driver License Services at 965-4437.