Source: Middleton Transcript

Starting July 1, Delaware’s blue and gold drivers’ licenses will change from simple cards with basic information to high-tech pieces of plastic designed to be more secure and harder to forge than anything that’s come before.

The new identification cards are designed to comply with federal regulations formulated in the wake of the September 11 attacks and crafted to unify procedures and security measures that vary greatly from state to state.

Beginning in 2014, only identification cards designed to the federal standards will be accepted when boarding an airplane or entering a federal building, though no one will be forced to obtain a federally compliant ID.

Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles Director Jennifer Cohan said the First State has been able to move quickly and get a jump on the federal mandates, unlike larger states that remain mired in logistical problems.

“Delaware is in a fortunate spot; we’re a small state,” she said. “We received $1 million from the federal government and we have a whole new computer system.”

To get a new ID, citizens must produce more detailed documentation than before to verify their identities and prove their citizenship.

Before issuing an ID, staff at the DMV will need to see an original birth certificate or valid passport, as well as an original social security card and a recent piece of mail received at a current in-state address.

Even though producing more detailed documentation can mean a bit more hassle for residents, Cohan said the new computer systems would make renewing an ID easier in the future.

When a resident gets a new ID, all the information is stored in a database and keyed to the resident’s photograph. Using facial recognition technology, the DMV can pull up the stored information when the resident returns for a new ID.

“[The new IDs] are an option, but we strongly urge Delaware residents to obtain them,” she said. “Once you go through the one-time revalidation, you never have to do it again.”

If a resident can’t produce the necessary information or elects not to, the DMV still can issue a standard drivers’ license, but the card won’t be accepted at airports or federal buildings after the 2014 deadline.

Fees for the new IDs will remain the same as current fees for license renewal.

Rep. William J. Carson Jr., D-Smyrna, who chairs the House transportation committee, said the new systems would make the DMV more efficient for customers.

“This is a great system, it’s a lot easier than getting a passport and a lot less expensive,” he said.

Cohan urged residents not to rush to their local DMV branches on July 1 for a new ID, since there’s plenty of time before the cards will be necessary.

Instead, drivers should wait to come in until their current licenses expire, she said.

The first Delawarean to get one of the new IDs was Secretary of Transportation Carolann Wicks, who helped demonstrate the process at the Dover DMV June 16.

Wicks commended the DMV for its work on the new ID program.

“It comes with effort, it comes with time and it comes on top of all our day-to-day work,” she said.”

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