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February 2015

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



Massachusetts extends license renewal period for sick drivers

A recently proposed Massachusetts bill would extend the driver’s license renewal period for people who have lost their hair due to illness by one year. Normally, Massachusetts drivers must renew their license every 10 years, and for people who have lost hair due to illness, this could mean living with a photo that is a constant reminder of that sickness.

That is what happened to Mary Waldron, a Massachusetts resident who was the inspiration for this bill. Waldron had no choice but to renew her license while ill, and now that she is in remission and sports a full head of hair, her driver’s license photo brings up painful memories. This bill aims to avoid similar situations in the future.

Mobile app developed by Maryland reaches 500,000 downloads

An app developed by the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration is celebrating a milestone of more than 500,000 downloads. Available from both the Google Play and iTunes stores, the app, called the Maryland Practice Driving Test, is a resource for people planning on taking the Maryland driver’s knowledge test.

The app has not only been successful in its download numbers, but it has also helped reduce wait times at DMV offices because more drivers are passing the test on their first try. Most users take the practice test offered on the app until they score 100 percent, which makes them far more likely to pass the official exam when they come into the DMV and take it.



Kentucky’s new truck inspection program is project of the year

A new program initiated by the state of Kentucky aims to inspect more of the large commercial trucks that pass through the state. Called KATS—Kentucky Automated Truck Screening—the program combines multiple scanning technologies to collect and process information as a commercial vehicle approaches a weigh station. The Intelligent Transportation Society of the Midwest named KATS its project of the year.

Prior to KATS, only 1 percent of the 3.5 million large commercial trucks that passed through Kentucky weigh stations were inspected. The state expects that figure to change as it establishes KATS in more locations, producing safer roadways and a possible increase in revenue.

Virginia law requires more frequent license renewal for the elderly

A Virginia law effective January 1, 2015, requires drivers over the age of 75 to renew their driver’s licenses in person every five years, changing the previous requirement of every eight years. The goal of this law is to ensure safer roadways for drivers.

“In many cases, seniors are some of the safest drivers out there. However, we know that aging naturally brings about health changes that can affect driving,” Virginia DMV Commissioner Rick Holcomb says in a press release.

The law is partially inspired by and named after Darren Morrell, a Virginia resident who lost his life in a motorcycle crash caused by an elderly man who turned into traffic without looking.



Iowa DOT is creating digital driver’s licenses

Soon enough, citizens of Iowa will no longer need to carry around a traditional plastic driver’s license in their wallet or purse. They’ll have the ability to access an official digital version of their license—as issued by the Iowa Department of Transportation—via an app on their smartphones.

According to the Des Moines Register, Iowa DOT Director Paul Trombino describes the app as a highly secure “identity vault app” that will require a verification PIN. “Having this really allows people to protect their identity,” he says.

Trombino says the app will become available sometime in 2015, and it will be provided to Iowa drivers at no additional cost.

DMV customers are waiting less in Wisconsin

A new report issued by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation reveals that the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles is making good progress toward its goal of making DMV interactions as quick and convenient as possible—without increasing its staff.

As of December 2014, the majority of visitors to DMV customer service centers are served within 10 minutes, most phone calls are answered by a customer service representative within two minutes, and customers have access to immediate service online for select transactions.

To help lower wait times at the DMV, Saturday hours were added at two of the state’s busiest service centers in Milwaukee. Time spent waiting on the phone has been lessened by the addition of the option for a call back or an email response. And, finally, WisDOT continues to enhance its online offerings. In the last year, the ability to purchase crash reports, look up liens and access practice materials for the driver test were added to the list of online services. According to the WisDOT report, more than 4.8 million transactions were completed online last year, and that number is expected to grow.



Higher speed limit results in fewer highway crashes in Utah

After increasing the speed limit to 80 mph on some stretches of interstate roads beginning in late 2008, the Utah Department of Transportation continues to report fewer highway crashes and better compliance with the speed limit.

A 2012 study found an 11 to 20 percent drop in speed-related crashes, depending on the stretches of the interstate studied, while a 2009 study revealed a 20 percent reduction in drivers exceeding the speed limit.

Currently, 36 percent of the interstate roads in Utah have the 80 mph speed limit. Last year, Idaho and Wyoming followed suit and increased the speed limit on portions of their interstate roads to 80 mph as well.

Arizona must issue driver’s licenses to “dreamers”

In December 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to challenge a federal appeals court ruling that the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division must issue driver’s licenses and permits to undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as children.

According to President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, these individuals, also known as “dreamers,” are permitted to live in the U.S., and the federal panel found that not issuing licenses to them would be in violation of the program and therefore illegal.

According to NPR’s Nina Totenberg, the Supreme Court’s refusal to intervene allows as many as 22,000 dreamers in Arizona to obtain the credentials needed to drive legally.