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The Leap Day Dilemma

Happy birthday, Leapers, from all of us at the California DMV!

Leap Day! A day that comes only once every four years. For most of us, it simply means an extra 24 hours in still the shortest month. But for the rare few born on February 29 (>200,000 in the U.S.), it means but a single birthday every 1,461 days. Beyond an excuse for friends to skip out on gift obligations, it can complicate things on official levels, too. What happens when a leap year baby applies for their ID or driver license?

Luckily, they don’t have to wait until they’re 64  in “normal” years to operate a motor vehicle. While leap year babies don’t technically have a birthday on the calendar every year, those 365 days when the earth revolves around the sun work well enough by legal standards to determine when they turn 16…ish.

There is no hard and fast rule in a non-leap year as to whether February 28 or March 1 qualifies as the correct time to +1 yourself. We say don’t sweat it when, say, grabbing that free bday meal at Denny’s—but we’d recommend playing it safe and sticking with the latter for those bigger, definitive milestones (age of majority or legal drinking age, for example).

And what about expiration dates, since a California license or ID always expires on the person’s birth date? We try to be as true to life as possible there, too.

“A person born on February 29 with a driver license or ID that expires in a leap year, we’ll use the same date, February 29,” says DMV spokesperson Jessica Gonzalez. “If it expires in a regular year, we’ll use February 28 as the expiration date.”

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