Losing your driving license is not as common as losing a penny, but it does happen.
A lost wallet, bag, or purse will take care of that for you. If you do lose your license to drive, there are specific steps you need to take to protect yourself and make sure you’re not going to get into trouble with the police. This article aims to guide you on what you must do to get back behind the wheel legally and without much fuss.
First Things First: Never Drive Without A License
Driving without a license is illegal in all 50 states, and there’s a genuine chance that you may get pulled over. Don’t take the risk unless you’re in a situation where you don’t have a choice, like losing your wallet on a hike in an unfamiliar area. The last thing you need is a ticket on top of your lost license troubles. If you’re going to the police or the DMV to file a report, better take an Uber or ask someone to drive you there. If you do get pulled over, your registration papers, insurance, or a simple VIN search can help establish that you’re not driving a stolen car.
Report the Incident to the Police
Even if the DMV doesn’t require you to report a lost driver’s license to the police, the rising incidents of fraud and identity theft say otherwise. If you lose your bag or it got stolen, it will be effortless for criminals to commit fraud using your driver’s license and other IDs. The police won’t go out of their way to look for your driver’s license, but at least there’s a record that you filed a report in the event someone uses your identity. According to internet fraud statistics, 5.4% of the US population have been affected by identity thefts just in 2014.
Another reason it’s helpful to report a lost or stolen driver’s license is that in some states, a replacement driver’s license is free if you can provide a police report or other corroborating documents.
Replacing Your Driver’s License Online
Depending on where you are, you can replace your driver’s license online if the option is available. States such as New York and Pennsylvania offer online replacement services, while others don’t.
If your state DMV supports online driving license replacement, please do the following:
• Choose the online option on the DMV website.
• Complete the form and enter all your details, ZIP code, and Social Security Number.
• Pay the fee online using your credit card.
• Download a temporary driver’s license from the confirmation page so you can drive while waiting for your new one.
• Wait for your new license to arrive by mail.
Temporary driving licenses are only valid for a few weeks to three months (depending on the state DMV), but you won’t need to wait that long. New licenses usually arrive within 10 to 15 days. Replacing a lost or stolen driver’s license won’t be as straightforward for some people, because:
• The local DMV needs to have a person’s photo and signature on file to proceed with the online replacement option.
• Certain restrictions on online replacement driver’s licenses apply if the applicant ordered the service before.
• Drivers with unpaid traffic fines, violations, or suspensions are not allowed to replace their driving license online.
Replacing Your Driver’s License in a DMV Office
If the online license option isn’t available, you can always head to the nearest DMV office and do things old school.
Be sure to bring these documents:
• Essential documents that can identify you, showing your name, date of birth (DOB), and signature.
• Proof of residence.
• Social Security Number (SSN) confirmation.
• An eye exam (some states).
When in doubt, check the DMV website in your state for more information on what documents are acceptable, or contact them directly. The fees for a driving license replacement will also vary depending on where you are. Some jurisdictions charge a $30 fee, while others charge $10.
Replacing Your Lost Driver’s License When Out-of-State
When you’re abroad or out of state, you can request a lost driver’s license replacement by mail. Include your name, DOB, driver’s license number, SSN, and the amount for the replacement fee. Make sure that all your addresses are correct, so your replacement license gets to you. Check with the local DMV if there are any restrictions for out-of-state applications.
Your driver’s license is more than an ID card with your picture on it. It’s a license that signifies you are qualified to operate your motor vehicle, and that you’ll follow the law while driving. If you lose your driving license, you can’t use your car. It’s as simple as that. If you get caught for a traffic violation, telling the officers that you lost your license won’t be a valid excuse and may get you into hot water.