Monday, June 30, 2008

Non-Driver IDs Issued in New Hampshire


CONCORD – State safety and motor vehicle officials admitted Monday they should have done more promotion prior to issuing the first temporary driver's licenses to New Hampshire residents earlier this month.

Restaurant and bar owners said they had no advance word before the June 1 start about the black-and-white, temporary documents patrons present to prove they are of legal drinking age.

Similar confusion has arisen at airports when travelers have to show the temporary license to board an airplane.

"It's hard to deny that, somehow, we could have done a better job," Assistant Safety Commissioner Earl Sweeney said during a press conference Monday.

State officials said they have met with leaders from federal aviation agencies and in the restaurant, hotel and banking industries to discuss the temporary license issue.

Still, Motor Vehicles Director Virginia Beecher recommended that state residents who received a temporary version of their new driver's license should carry other picture identification, such as an old license or a passport until they get the permanent license.

The temporary licenses are made of tear-resistant paper and are being given to all motorists. Officials say they will allow law enforcement to detect as many as 100,000 who illegally possess New Hampshire licenses but live in some other state or country.

Permanent licenses will be mailed to New Hampshire drivers in three to four weeks after they get a temporary one, Safety Commissioner John Barthlemes said.

Meanwhile, Beecher and Barthelmes announced that by early September car and truck owners will all start receiving a new annual motor vehicle registration with enhanced security features.

The new form contains a bar code with verifying information about the vehicle owner. By the end of summer, the statewide database of registration will be accessible online to staff in all city and town clerk offices, to all State Police troopers and local police departments that have laptop computers with the right scanning equipment.

Most states already have the bar code security on their own vehicle registrations, Barthlemes said.

"This has become the new wave of the 21st Century," Barthelmes said.

Both the license and new registration contain many more security features to aid law enforcement and reduce identity theft, Beecher added.

While the old driver's license had one security feature – a Division of Motor Vehicles numbered seal – the new, permanent license will have five.

The temporary license is more secure than the old one with the image of the driver's photo appearing in two places, Beecher said.

Only 13 cities and towns in the state, including Manchester and Nashua, fail to have online access to the motor vehicle registration information.

Assistant Safety Commissioner Sweeney said registration info is mailed to the state DMV, and staffers there have to manually enter the data into their own database.

This can delay state officials getting up to date registry information from a small town for as much as a few weeks, Sweeney added.

Getting all communities online is the first step to one day letting citizens register their cars or trucks online and only have to go in person every 10 years to update a driver's license.

"I'm not going to give you a timeline, but I hope sooner rather than later. It's a priority," Barthelmes added.

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