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New License Hits The MVC – Quietly

Officials didn't make release publicly known before they started handing out new drivers licenses

They’re calling it a security upgrade.  Bartenders are calling it a fake. And I’m calling it poorly planned.

The NJ Motor Vehicle Commission has begun issuing enhanced digital licenses, starting on a pilot basis at the regional centers in February. Regular agencies began joining in last month, and all locations are expected to be able to issue the new license by the middle of May. At this time, the old style digital driver's license will no longer be available.

So what does the new license look like? Well, one could say that it looks fake, at least to the naked eye. A casual observer would notice that it looks more faded than its predecessor. The logos look a little stretched, the driver’s photo is larger, the background is pixelated, and the driver’s name is displayed on two lines instead of one.

The MVC says they’re made of a new, more secure, temper-evident material. But, to a casual viewer it may look like a fake ID – created by a moron.

I’m sure that these changes all have reasons behind them, and I am totally for security upgrades. The problem is they haven't been publicized. The MVC isn't doing much to help the media spread the word, either.

This week, I contacted the MVC spokesman for an official comment, but was unsuccessful. After sending countless emails, and leaving several voicemails, it is apparent that the MVC doesn’t want to explain it just yet.  

The only response I received was when I was asked to hold off on publishing a story regarding this topic until the “official unveiling” at an event scheduled for May 11 at the Newark Liberty International Airport.

Sure...we’ll all sit around confused until then! A search online regarding the changes only results in a security memo that the Motor Vehicle Commission sent to law enforcement officials in January.

For me, the experience with the upgraded license has been comical, and slightly frustrating, to say the least.

I turned 21 on March 15, and I got my new license on March 18 – just in time for my Atlantic City birthday weekend (so much for beginners luck, as I lost). I returned to school in Boston, and after only being 21 for about two weeks, I lost my license (yes, I was sober when I lost it walking down the street).

The problem is that I’m in Boston (305 miles away from home). Yet, The MVC has a plan in place for those who lose their driver’s license while they’re out of state. I would have been able to mail in photocopies of the necessary documents to meet the 6-point identification system, and a replacement license would be mailed to me within two weeks.

If the MVC is so fixated with security upgrades, how is it possible that I can mail in a photocopy of my documents, and be granted a new license? That seems a little bit risky, right? I live in a college dorm, where I was amongst the first to turn 21. If my roommate wanted a fake ID, he could just open my dresser drawer, photocopy my passport, and mail it in the state. All he’d need is a hair cut, and he’s me at local bars.

Beyond that, it still doesn’t feel safe. It seems like it’s just easy to create a false identity this way.

Luckily the Easter holiday served as a good opportunity for me to get a replacement license. I went to the MVC in Manahawkin last Saturday, and it seemed pretty simple. But, after I looked at my newly printed pale license, I thought, "This looks different." I asked an employee why this was the case, and he simply said, "It's okay."

It took going home and Googling the issue to learn the state changed the license.

I went out last Saturday night, and as I'd guessed might happened, I had an issue. The first bartender made a face at the license, but seemed understanding. He took the ID and put it into the machine that checks their legitimacy, and came back, saying it had cleared. After I was served, I mentioned to him that I think it was a new type of ID, but I didn’t know. He told me that I was the first one like this that he had seen. I’m sure me saying, “They just changed the license today!” really helped smooth things over, especially with my baby face.

I went to another bar later that evening, where the bouncer actually laughed at me. I don’t really blame him though. My girlfriend showed him her drivers license first, then I showed him mine. When you compare the two side-by-side, the new one just looks fake. I offered to show him my wallet full of identification to prove myself, but he laughed and waved me in.

I can't help but speculate that I was only allowed in because the bar was pretty empty. But, either way, I know he thought I was trying to pull a fast one on him.

I haven’t tried to go out yet since my arrival back in Boston, but I’m sure that any local pubs or liquor stores will think something is up with my license if they take a close look.

Why is it so difficult for the MVC to issue a public statement about these changes? It’s mind-blowing that in the year 2011, I can mail in my birth certificate to get a replacement license, but I get laughed at when I try to follow the rules. The MVC shouldn’t need to hold an official event a month after the changes have taken place. They should have held an event before the license was in my wallet.

I didn’t ask for humiliation and confusion every time I try to go out, but it seems like the MVC has done that for me.

Mac May 04, 2011 at 03:11 PM
I respectfully disagree with you Mark. DMV has certainly had its ups and downs throughout the decades, but the agency had gone a long way to cleaning itself up before the last privatization (I think under the direction of a guy named Skippy Lee or something.) While I personally believe these enhancements were done to reduce the costs for the politically-connected that benefitted from the privatization, I know I didn't realize any cost reductions or other savings from the deal. DMV is an agency the public collectively hates, much like the toll collectors on the toll roads, so the lower level employees get the screws put to them while the management prospers even more behind the scenes (and with public support.) Now that I know I won't be getting any reduction in tolls with the salary and benefit givebacks obtained under the threat of privatization, and with the elimination of toll jobs in a couple of years, will I get a better roadway with its debt handily being reduced or will I get a more costly and bloated management operation? Privatization should be the goal of ridding ourselves of government operations that compete against private business, like race tracks and golf courses. Government agencies should be run by government, not profit-motivated private enterprises. The government of, for and by the people should never be compromised by the motives of any private entity.
MVC Communications May 04, 2011 at 04:41 PM
The MVC began its pilot of the new digital driver license in February 2011. Prior to a phased implementation, the MVC notified all stakeholder groups in January 2011 that would have an interest in the new license. These included various law enforcement agencies such as the State Police, Traffic Officers, Police Chiefs, Prosecutors, Courts and Sheriffs. Additionally, the MVC informed business groups such as the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, Chamber of Commerce, NJ Retail Merchants, NJ Licensed Beverage Association and others who may come in contact with a driver license. Several media outlets have also run stories noting that the MVC was implementing a new license. Mr. Hyer was aware that this announcement is public on the MVC’s website: http://www.state.nj.us/mvc/pdf/About/advisories/advisory-2011-001.pdf. He was was informed, via email, that the MVC plans on making a second public statement upon the completion of the driver license pilot on May 11. As for Mr. Hyer’s security concerns, the ability to seek out a temporary replacement license if you are in an out-of-state predicament is not uncommon. The MVC seeks to aid when possible, but the driver must follow a number of procedures provided he/she already has a digital driver license. Upon following the procedures, the individual would be entitled to receive a photo driver license without a signature. The license would contain the photo already on record with the MVC. MVC Communications
MVC Communications May 04, 2011 at 06:49 PM
Thank you for the comment. Just a note, the MVC is a state-run, not privatized, agency. Inspections are the only service provided by a private vendor. The MVC was previously privatized, but returned to state-management in the early 2000s.
Joseph Hyer May 10, 2011 at 05:08 AM
I was in NJ tonight, and had an issue with the license. The waitress took my ID and brought it to the bartenders/management. None of them had been aware of the trouble. I hope Thursday's official ceremony at Newark Airport fixes this...
Mac August 17, 2011 at 07:45 PM
Oops, didn't realize DMV unprivatized again in 2000s. I stand corrected on that association in my comments. I've gotta check back on some of these articles more often. Apoligize for taking so long.

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