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Directions in Highway Safety, Summer 2008 Cover Page Download Newsletter pdf
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Late Winter 2008 | Vol. 10 | No. 4

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New Rules for Drivers Licenses to Impact States

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has announced new federal rules that will alter the ways states issue drivers licenses. As of December 1, 2014, U.S. residents born after December 1, 1964 will need new Homeland Securityapproved licenses to use their ID to board an airplane or enter a federal building. Older drivers will not be required to carry the new license until 2017. States that need more time to comply must apply for a waiver if they want their licenses to remain valid after May 2008.

To be in compliance, states must design licenses that include embedded security features set by Homeland Security and digital photographs.

The new rules do not mandate that states issue the new ID cards, but residents of states that do not participate will be unable to use their drivers licenses as proof of identity to access federally secured areas, including airline terminals. The rules prohibit states from issuing the new licenses to illegal immigrants.

Department of Homeland Security Logo

Many states have complained that the federal rules will be costly and difficult to implement. Seventeen states have passed legislation objecting to the REAL ID Act, the legislation Congress passed in 2005 that directed Homeland Security to formulate these new rules.

The same day the rules were announced, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), the National Governors Association (NGA) and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) issued a joint news release indicating they plan to review the regulations and meet with state stakeholders to determine their impact.

The state groups expressed satisfaction that many of the regulations take into account comments and recommendations submitted by the three groups, including extending compliance deadlines and giving states more flexibility to manage and secure their systems.

However, states remain concerned about funding. William T. Pound, NCSL executive director noted that "the Administration has not asked Congress to fund state costs, and Congress has only provided states $90 million. State legislators have to balance budgets and make difficult choices among many competing priorities. These regulations are federal standards and deserve federal funds."

Homeland Security estimates overhauling drivers licenses across the country will cost states a total of $3.9 billion. NGA, AAMVA and NCSL initially estimated the cost at more than $11 billion but acknowledged that the proposed regulations offer states some flexibility that may mitigate this amount.

The joint AAMVA, NGA, NCSL press release is available online at