Should the Government Require Regular Driving Tests?

regular driving tests

 Most drivers in the U.S. seek their driver’s licenses at a young age. In teens’ minds, driving means freedom, so they can’t wait to get driver’s education, required driving hours and the dreaded test over with, and roll away with a shiny new license. In 2013, 54 percent of 18-year-olds in the U.S. had their licenses, as did 69 percent of 19-year-olds and and 87 percent of adults over 18.

Once you have your driver’s license, you might not have to take another test (vision, written, or road) for more than 50 years, if at all (more about state-by-state elderly driver requirements below) – unless you fail to renew your license in time and have to re-take the road test and written test, that is. Think about that: a 30-year-old who earned his license when he was 16 likely hasn’t cracked a driver’s ed book for almost 15 years. For a 50-year-old, it might’ve been almost 35 years since she thought about three-point turns and railroad crossing signals. And traffic laws change over time and vary among states, so as people move, or simply age, they might not have ever learned a number of rules of the road they’re expected to follow.

Once you have a license you might not have to take another driving test for 50 years – if ever.

And not only are drivers with varying memories of their driver’s education sharing the road with you, with the prevalence of ridesharing, they are increasingly driving you around as a passenger.

So we have to wonder, in the interest of safety, should the government require regular driving tests?

teen driver taking road test

How Often Should We Take Regular Driving Tests?

Driver’s licenses are issued by state, not by the federal government, which means the federal government can’t impose any nationwide law when it comes to driving – including license requirements. Each state would have to legislate new rules regarding regular driver’s tests.

Making changes to traffic laws isn’t a quick or easy feat. We’ve known for years that using phones while driving is dangerous, yet there are still places in the U.S. where drivers can call, text, and otherwise use their phones while operating a vehicle.

Still, driving is dangerous. It’s the number one killer of teens and contributes to a substantial percentage of deaths at all other ages. Everyone could stand to be safer, and perhaps requiring adults to re-take a road and written test in order to keep their licenses every so often isn’t a bad idea.

In the last few years alone, cars have become much more connected (meaning new technology to understand), and traffic law changes all the time. Each state sets its own traffic laws, of course, but a sampling of changes from 2015 to 2016 highlights just how often new laws come into effect, with no requirement for drivers to brush up:

  • In California, four new laws and two changes to the alert system became effective January 1.
  • Illinois passed at least 10 new laws affecting drivers which took effect January 1.
  • And Virginia passed at least seven new traffic-related laws in the first half of 2016, all of which went into effect on July 1.

It’s surprisingly easy to forget common traffic laws that we encounter during everyday driving. Traffic School Online highlights common things drivers do that are against the law (note: not everything applies to all states, since they each have different rules):

  • Not moving over or slowing down for emergency vehicles
  • Not completely stopping at a stop sign
  • Not turning on headlights when it’s raining
  • Changing lanes in the middle of an intersection
  • Changing lanes without using a signal

Think you recall the rules of the road? Take our quiz and see how you do.

A driving school instruction car parked on the test course

Continuing Education: Driver’s License Edition

State-by-state rules for Driver’s Ed and driving tests required to be licensed:

Just 28 U.S. states require completion of a Driver’s Education course for people under the age of 18 to get their licenses. For residents over age 18, most of these states don’t require Driver’s Ed or proof of practice (but some, like New York, require proof of instruction at every age). That means in 22 states, plus Washington, D.C., people applying for their licenses only need to pass their state’s required tests without any formal training.

In every state, a driver applying for his/her first license will need to pass a road test, a written (or verbal) test, and a vision test.


A professional driver who needs a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) for his job must first pass both a written test and a skills test to earn his license, the requirements of which vary by state. Then, in order to maintain his CDL, the driver must be reevaluated by the state issuing his license at regular intervals. The interval range varies by state: some require renewal every four years, some every eight, some other lengths of time.

Rideshare and taxi:

In some states, traditional taxi and limousine drivers need special licenses or special certificates, but not everywhere. Rideshare drivers operating in New York City, for example, must follow Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) licensing laws. But rideshare drivers elsewhere are by definition not TLC drivers, so they aren’t required to abide by the same rules. Instead, rideshare drivers need to simply renew their regular state-issued driver’s licenses before they expire.

What about elderly drivers?

See Part II of this post, “When Should Elderly People Stop Driving?” later this week. Subscribe to Quoted.


Do you think state or federal government should require regular driving tests?