stateToState tall

DECEMBER 2012

We’re finally on the road and driving toward a more secure licensing and identification card system.

“One driver, one license.” After decades of working toward this ideal, funding is in place and real progress is underway. Finally, by 2015, a group of eight pilot states will begin to employ a service that will allow states to determine if an individual currently holds a valid driver’s license or identification card—among participating states, of course. As the motor vehicle administrator and law enforcement community is well aware, state laws presently require individuals to prove their identities before a licensing agency can issue a driver’s license or ID card. State legislation also forbids individuals from holding more than one valid driver’s license. Yet, there currently is no structure in existence that strictly enforces such rules, so people have discovered ways to skirt the system and obtain multiple or fraudulent licenses. But that’s all about to change with the development and implementation of State-to-State (S2S), a service designed to improve security for driver’s licenses and personal ID cards.

“With the S2S service, we are providing states a mechanism to electronically verify whether an individual already holds a valid driver’s license in another jurisdiction,” says Pam Dsa, program director of the Project Management Office at AAMVA. “Accompanied by the electronic means to verify identity, the service will be a powerful tool for state driver’s licensing agencies to combat driver’s license and ID card fraud,” she says.

Who Do You Say You Are?

When issuing a driver’s license or ID card, jurisdictions do the best they can to verify the identity of an applicant. However, for many years, the only resource available to them has been an electronic check of the Social Security Administration’s files. But progress has recently been made in developing methods for checking the validity of U.S. passports and immigration documents, according to Jay Maxwell, president and CEO of Clerus Solutions, LLC. Efforts are still underway to develop a tool that verifies the authenticity of birth certificates with state vital records agencies.

“The idea of this project is to provide states tools to verify a person’s identity,” says Maxwell, who is the program manager for S2S. “So when someone comes in [to a licensing agency] and presents a birth certificate, social security information, immigration documents, or a passport as a form of ID, the DMV will have an electronic way to verify that information directly with the source,” he says.

Maxwell and his team are working through the State of Mississippi to construct the S2S service on the same infrastructure as the Commercial Driver’s License Information System (CDLIS). Federal law mandates that all jurisdictions use CDLIS, and Maxwell hopes all states will choose to adopt the S2S service as well, although it will not be required by law.

The service will be most effective once adopted by every jurisdiction. “When all the states have implemented S2S, the ability to easily obtain a license in multiple jurisdictions will be eliminated because we will be able to check instantaneously with other states to see if they have a license in that state,” says Major Jason Jennings, president and CEO of DIVS.

Back to the Beginning

“In order to understand where we’re headed, you have to understand where we’ve come from,” says Geoff Slagle, director of identity management at AAMVA, noting that the value of a driver’s license has evolved greatly since its inception. “At one point in time, there wasn’t supposed to be any intrinsic identification value to something like a driver’s license. It was supposed to just simply be evidence that you had a level of competency to operate a motor vehicle—period,” he adds.

In this day and age, that’s simply no longer the case. “The driver’s license today is used for several purposes: it’s important to get on a plane; it’s important to enter any federal office; it’s used for a lot of things—it’s your identity,” Dsa says.

Due to the fact that the majority of U.S. adults drive, the driver’s license has morphed into the most widely used identity document in the United States, according to Selden Biggs, director of the Office of State-Issued ID Support, Department of Homeland Security. And when a driver’s license is indicative of identity, as Dsa notes, it’s vital that law enforcement is able to trust its authenticity.

Highway Safety

A major concern for state driver’s licensing agencies has always been advancing highway safety, and one way in which to accomplish that goal is to keep problem drivers off the road. “One driver, one license,” demands that individuals will be held accountable for their driving behavior.

With the S2S service, states will have a more comprehensive set of resources to utilize when verifying identity. “Then, after they determine that people are who they say they are, states can see if they hold a license or ID card somewhere else in the U.S.,” says Maxwell. “If people already hold one or more credentials, they will need to cancel them in order to be issued a new one. This prevents them from spreading driving convictions across multiple licenses and makes habitual problem driver behavior more evident to enforcement officials, licensing agencies and during adjudication.”

Until now it’s been relatively easy for individuals to obtain licenses in multiple states and evade law enforcement. But the S2S service for the states—built by the states—will make obtaining fraudulent identification more difficult and will help states enforce their own laws and policies, Biggs says.

The Bigger Picture

In addition to highway safety concerns, S2S also addresses the threat to national security that bearing multiple or fraudulent driver’s licenses poses. “We’ve had this increasing need to know that people are who they claim to be, and the reason behind that is the amount of ID related crime that happens not just in the U.S., but around the world,” Slagle says.

The ability to easily obtain government-issued documentation and pass as someone else presents an opportunity for individuals to conduct illegal activities without being detected. According to the 9/11 Commission, all but one of the terrorists who executed the Sept. 11 attacks obtained one or more driver’s licenses in order to facilitate and conceal their activities.

Identity fraud has become a business in this country. According to Biggs, the major source of identity fraud is individuals stealing and reselling personal information. People will sell identification data across state lines. People reuse data throughout the country, and up until now, there’s been no good way to check. S2S will reduce the incentive to reuse illegally obtained data, Biggs says.

Where Are We Going?

Increased communication across jurisdictions during driver’s licensing and identification card issuance processes will make U.S. highways—and the country as a whole—safer. “One driver, one license,” will reduce the number of problem drivers on the road, along with instances of identity fraud and threats to national security.

In addition to providing states with this service that will significantly enhance driver’s license and ID card security, S2S will help states seeking to meet the identity verification requirements of the REAL ID Act of 2005. However, participation in the service does not commit a state to be in compliance with the REAL ID Act. “But if a state does choose to be compliant, this service will help it enforce its own laws,” Dsa says.

Throughout the next year AAMVA will continue to work with the lead pilot state of the S2S service, Mississippi, DHS, FMCSA and Clerus Solutions to develop the S2S infrastructure. “We want to be a leader in implementing some of these services to guarantee the driver’s license will be a more secure credential,” says Jennings.

“Jurisdiction involvement, opinions and expertise are important to the activities and decisions of the DIVS executive committee,” says Jennings. “As S2S is developed, implemented and evaluated for efficiency, state input will not only be an advantage to DIVS, but involvement would also provide the state with the most current information and experience.”