Identifying a better driver's license

Although it doesn't back the idea of a driver's license becoming a national identification card, a nonprofit association representing motor vehicle department officials wants to enhance the credibility of the license as an ID document.

Instead of a national ID card, driver's licenses are really personal identification cards that are accepted and used on a national level, said Linda Lewis, president and chief executive officer of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, which represents officials from the United States and Canada.

The problem is trusting that the person with a license is actually who it says on the card. And the way to do that is to hold up the state's obligation on the issuing end, Lewis said at a Dec. 11 luncheon sponsored by the Council for Excellence in Government in Washington, D.C.

An AAMVA (www.aamva.org) task force will report to its board of directors in January its findings and recommendations about reducing driver's license fraud and improving verification, said Jay Maxwell, president and chief operating officer of AAMVAnet Inc., an affiliate of the association that helps government agencies share motor vehicle information electronically. In February, it will outline the board's decisions with transportation, information technology and law enforcement officials from across North America.

The task force will unveil long- and short-term strategies to improve the initial issuance of a driver's license, residency and citizenship verification, security of the physical document and the IT infrastructure used in the ID process, Maxwell said at the National Electronic Commerce Coordinating Council's annual conference in Las Vegas Dec. 10.

He said the group foresees the use of a unique identifier so that a driver can use one license in the United States and Canada.

Lewis said one of the issues to consider is how state systems could link with federal systems at such agencies as the Social Security Administration and the Immigration and Naturalization Service to verify information. If such a link existed with INS, for example, it would close a loophole that exists because driver's licenses do not automatically expire when an immigration visa expires, she said.

The group also is investigating using smart card technology to reduce fraud and improve verification of the card's owner. That could mean the person, the driver's license ID and the person's driving record would be "inextricably linked," Maxwell said.

But he said motor vehicle departments are not convinced they want to do that. The key will be finding a way to manage the information on the card if the license is revoked or a person moves from one state to another, he added.

Improvements to the driver's license document could help reduce underage drinking, identity theft, the number of bad drivers using multiple licenses and the issuance of such documents to terrorists.

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