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MAY 2013

Learn what’s happening with motor vehicle & law enforcement agencies across the country.

Region I

New York: New York prepares to roll out copy-proof driver’s licenses

New York officials announced that, beginning in July, the New York state driver’s license will undergo a makeover. The new license has a decidedly retro black-and-white look, which will help make it more difficult to counterfeit, officials told the New York Times.

The key to this design is that the new licenses are engraved by laser onto a hard polycarbonate material, making duplication much more complicated and difficult than it is with the currently used flexible plastic material. Machines that do this type of transcribing cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, so very few, if any, counterfeiters will be able to afford the equipment.

The material alone is not the only new protection offered with these licenses. Other features designed to combat counterfeiting include embedded fine lines, variable patterns, and micro lettering. Additionally, all of the features are fused into a solid structure that can’t be peeled apart into layers.

The State of Virginia has been using a similar technology—based on the U.S. State Department’s new polycarbonate passport cards—since 2009 and Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles claims they have yet to see a credible fake driver’s license. New York state officials predict their new licenses will be virtually impossible to counterfeit.

Region II

Tennessee: Semi-trucks provide a better view for cops in Tennessee

To get a better perspective on drivers who text, the Tennessee Highway Patrol has begun putting officers in semi-trucks. Being in the elevated truck cabin lets officers see unbuckled seatbelts, drivers texting in their laps, and even open beer cans or bottles.

In order to drive the semi-truck, the officer must be one of the 95 policemen currently possessing a commercial driver’s license in Tennessee. And even then, the officers do not pull anyone over in the truck, they simply radio in infractions they see to other troopers.

Texting while driving is becoming an increasing problem across the United States. A recent study by the AAA Foundation for Road Safety found that up to 69 percent of Americans admit to using cell phones in their cars while 24 percent admit to texting while driving.

Using semi trucks to find text offenders is part of the Tennessee Highway Patrol’s “Stay Alive on 75” promotion aimed at raising highway crash awareness. Tennessee State Trooper Gordon Roberts told the Times Free Press that he doles out as many as seven texting-related tickets per day and sometimes sees more infractions than he can find nearby troopers to give the tickets.

REGION III

Missouri: New program in Missouri puts spotlight on aging drivers

A new public health program in Missouri focuses on the possible dangers caused by some senior citizens behind the wheel. The program, called “Arrive Alive After 65,” hopes to help identify when elderly men and women become unable to continue driving safely.

The program is aimed at doctors, nurses, and peer educators and involves showing them how to better recognize seniors who may pose a threat in a car. Training programs are the primary means through which Missouri plans to achieve this goal. The state wants to make these professionals who deal with the elderly more aware of what types of medical conditions are associated with the loss of driving skills.

As of now, the program is voluntary and is more about awareness and starting a conversation rather than scaring or intimidating elderly drivers. “We need to normalize the conversation of driving cessation,” program organizer James Stowe told the Associated Press.

This idea is not unique to Missouri. Other states have seen the need for discussion and regulation in this area. In 2007, due to the death of a young woman in a car accident, Texas passed a law requiring drivers 79 and older to come to the DMV in person to renew their licenses.

Region IV

Utah: Utah bill makes smoking in the car with kids illegal

Governor Gary Herbert of Utah recently signed a bill into law that bans smoking in vehicles when children are present. The bill was somewhat controversial, with Herbert considering a veto up until he decided to sign it. Before the signing, Herbert discussed his concerns with several legislators and did not hear anything that gave him second thoughts about signing the bill into law.

The purpose of the bill is to protect the health of Utah’s children. When talking to the Deseret News, the governor acknowledged the possibility that people may view the bill as increasing government involvement with private lives, but he didn’t find the intrusion strong enough to veto the bill. He was most concerned with doing the right thing for the children of Utah.

The law itself is fairly simple and will make drivers who smoke with children in their car subject to a fine. The governor summed up his feelings about the bill by telling the Deseret News he thinks children needed “a little help from government to make sure we as adults act responsibly.” Other Utah politicians, including Representative Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, have expressed satisfaction with the bill, echoing Herbert’s statements.