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Could Your Smartphone Carry Your Driver’s License?

digital drivers licenseLaws regarding driver’s licenses have been around in the U.S. for more than 125 years, starting in 1910 when New York established laws for motor vehicle chauffeurs. In 1888, German automaker Karl Benz was issued the first driver’s license in the world before he drove his Motorwagen (the Model 3) 200 miles in the world’s first long distance automobile trip.1

Currently, there are about 210 million licensed drivers in the United States,2 and more than 24 million of them are licensed in California.3 A new bill proposes to allow these millions of Californians to carry their driver’s licenses and IDs on their smartphones.

Assembly Bill 221, introduced by Democratic Assemblyman Matt Dababneh, would allow the Department of Motor Vehicles to create a mobile phone app that would enable California drivers to access a digital driver’s license or identification card. The bill also requires that the digital license or ID is “accepted as a valid government-issued identification.”4

Are Mobile App Driver’s Licenses Safe?

According to Dababneh, digital driver’s licenses would be safer than the current licenses we carry in our purse or wallet. He said that the app will have built-in safeguards.

“I will be working closely with consumer groups, privacy advocates and digital security experts to ensure that the final product meets the safety standards that Californians expect,” Dababneh told CBS.5

Before being able to access a digital driver’s license, you will have to apply with the California DMV for a personal identification number that would allow you to access the digital copy on your smartphone.

Delaware and Iowa are also considering proposals for digital driver’s licenses. The Delaware House of Representatives passed a resolution in January pushing for the DMV’s approval as the first state to use digital IDs and licenses. Iowa announced last year that it planned for licenses to be accessible by smartphone in a 2015 pilot program.

Pros and Cons of Digital Driver’s Licenses

Some of the benefits of the implementation of digital driver’s licenses include a security measure that would prevent anyone from accessing the driver’s identity and personal information.

fake drivers licenseAlso, service industries may appreciate that digital licenses would be nearly impossible to be altered, possibly preventing minors from attempting to purchase tobacco and alcohol illegally.

Some questions and potential problems with digital driver’s licenses could include:

  • Hacking and data security issues
  • Privacy violations that could occur when you hand a police officer, bartender, or any other entity your phone for identification purposes
  • What happens if you get pulled over and you have a dead phone battery or a damaged cellphone?
  • Who pays if a police officer drops and damages your phone while it is in their possession?
  • Will you be able to access your license on multiple devices?

The Iowa Department of Transportation remarked that a big issue for drivers is the potential for privacy violations. An IDOT representative told ABC News that the department is hoping to implement a lock screen feature that will prevent anyone from viewing items on the phone while it is not in the driver’s possession.6

What Do You Think of Digital Driver’s Licenses and Their Use in California?

We at Wallin & Klarich would like to hear from you about this topic. Do you think that digital licenses are a good idea? Would you apply for a digital license? What are some of the problems you see if California implements digital IDs and licenses? Please feel free to leave your comments below.


1. [http://www.karlbenz.com/ ]
2. [http://www.statista.com/topics/1197/car-drivers/ ]
3. [http://www.statista.com/statistics/198029/total-number-of-us-licensed-drivers-by-state/]
4. [https://legiscan.com/CA/text/AB221/2015 ]
5. [http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2015/02/05/whats-in-your-wallet-calif-drivers-licenses-closer-to-going-digital/#.VNOxbUp1ghQ.twitter ]
6. [http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/problem-digital-drivers-licenses-iowa-tests-high-tech/story?id=27555728 ]

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Wallin & Klarich was established in 1981. Over the past 32 years, our law firm has helped tens of thousands of families in their time of legal need. Regardless of whether our clients faced criminal or DUI charges, the loss of their driving privilege, or wanted to clean up their criminal record, we have been there to help them.