SALT LAKE CITY — After the start of next year, Utahns will only need to renew their driver's license every eight years.
And with a good driving record, they will only need to visit the Driver License Division every 16 years.
HB294, sponsored by Rep. Adam Robertson, R-Provo, set the life span of a license to eight years, the longest possible under the federal Real ID Act. This is the same act that will require licenses to be issued with a gold star.
The longer renewal will also bring a higher price tag. Utahns will pay $52 instead of $32 to renew. Robertson said the per-year cost, which stays about the same, is below the national average.
Robertson said he believes in small, minimally invasive government and would like licenses to last even longer. Robertson said the renewal period in Utah was previously four years, before it was chnaged to five.
"There’s no particular rhyme or reason why (five years) was chosen," Robertson said.
Chris Caras, director of the Utah Driver License Division, said the fees collected cover the cost of all of its business and not increasing the price would have a significant fiscal impact.
The change does not affect commercial licenses or a teen driver's first license, which will still need to be updated when they turn 21. Caras said it will affect about 35 percent of the workload in division offices throughout the state.
Robertson said the demand on the Driver's License Division for the five years after the change will remain the same, and then the following three years there will be very little class D renewals.
"After we get through these next 5 years … we’ll go back and look at the driver’s license division and see if there’s some inefficiencies that have been realized and see if we can't do something to roll those back," Robertson said.
Caras said they have not hired any new staff based on population growth since 2008. He said the new license life span will help them continue to serve the rapidly growing population in Utah without making significant staffing changes.
"Over the course of the next few years as this becomes implemented, we are going to be evaluating every vacant position … it really opens the door for us to effectively look at that and do some balancing and adjusting of staff," Caras said.
The question Robertson said he received most often while running HB294 was how the new length would affect seniors as driving ability deteriorates. He said existing laws to deal with age issues will not be changed.
Robertson noted the law requires those over 65 to have their eyes checked for each license renewal, which will now happen every eight years.12 comments on this story
Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Nick Street said when officers are concerned age is impacting a person's driving, they can require a medical review. He said family members can help police by watching how an elderly driver performs and can also fill out a form to requesta driver review when they have concerns a driver is becoming dangerous due to their age.
Caras said the Driver's License Division will also be evaluating the criteria used to determine if a person can renew their license remotely. He said people are required to come in if they have more than four citations since their last renewal. He said this will change to six citations in the last eight years.
"Any time you’re going into kind of this new territory there are questions that come up that you need to watch, monitor and answer as things are vetted out," Caras said.