Proposal Would Allow Utahns to Carry a Digital Drivers License

Cell PhoneWould you like an electronic Utah driver’s license on your cell phone?

Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley, wants to at least study giving you that option, as we all apparently move toward a “walletless” society.

His HB227 will require the division of motor vehicles folks to look into the technology and cost of such an option.

“I want to stress that this would be an option. You could still get your plastic license if you want. But I believe a lot of Utahns would like to have their driver’s license on their cell phone.”

And he’s probably right.

There could be a real convenience to many folks – especially this younger generation – not to have to carry their driver’s license around.

Especially if you are hitting the bars/restaurants and having to show your I.D. all the time.

But a warning to Hall – watch out for the black-helicopter folks. Even his own Republican Party state delegates.

Way back before the Internet, then-Rep. Gerry Adair, a conservative, law-enforcement advocate, ran a bill that would have allowed Utah driver’s licenses to become – for that time – a smartcard.

The idea was that a resident could, voluntarily, put all kinds of neat stuff on their driver’s license, encoded with a computer chip – their personal medical needs, like being a diabetic, or other valuable information.

Well, the conservative, citizens-rights folks got all up in Adair’s face.

Would cops know you had a concealed weapons permit? Would they know credit card information? On and on.

It got so bad that threats were coming into Adair, and he had to have some special police protection.

Needless to say, Adair’s bill went nowhere.

But times have changed.

And more and more we use electronic information in many ways.

“We can transfer bank funds on our phones. We can make credit card purchases. We can have an electronic airline ticket,” says Hall.

In fact, you need to show a picture I.D. at airport security now – usually your driver’s license, even if you have an electronic ticket – and Hall’s idea is that you could have both on your cell phone.

Now, Hall says he is concerned about privacy and security.

One idea would be for Utah DMV to have its own application or App.

You currently can opt to lock your cell phone (and you are a nut if you don’t).

So, let’s say you are pulled over on a police traffic stop. You would unlock your phone and hand it to the cop showing your license screen.

He could take it back to his car for a radio/internet check.

“But the screen would be locked, you could have your own license App pin,” says Hall. “He couldn’t snoop around on your cell phone. Just get the information off of the screen license.”

The driver would unlock the screen once the phone is given back to him.

You could have two-step security – your cell phone’s pin and a special pin just for your license App.

It would not just be that convenient at a stop.

Currently, if you have a change of address, within ten days you are legally required to inform the DMV by written notice (who does this?).

You may have to come into a DMV office to get a new license. It can be a hassle.

Under the new plan, “You could go online and change your address or other information on your electronic license (using your license App pin) – and then DMV would download an update to your (license) App. Real easy,” says Hall, who is one of the most technologically adept lawmakers.

The 2013 Legislature passed a bill that allows for the electronic presentation of proof of auto insurance, should you be stopped by a police officer.

In theory, says Hall, your cell phone driver’s license could be more secure than your current plastic license.

If you lose your phone, no one can get in without your unlock pin or fingerprint unlock code.

Much, or all, of your phone data is backed up on the cloud or another device. So it can quickly be downloaded to a new phone.

Lose your wallet and you have to get a new driver’s license, new credit cards and all kinds of stuff, with worries about how those items may be compromised.

“This is where we are headed,” said Hall. “Other states are further down the road on electronic driver’s licenses, and our own DMV people are looking at this anyway.”

His bill would just mandate and pay for a study, to be finished before the 2017 Legislature.