North Carolina driver's license laws could be changing

| 8/3/2006

A handful of efforts intended to guard against identity theft and address driving privileges drew consideration during the recently completed legislative session in North Carolina. One of the bills awaiting Gov. Mike Easley’s signature would require residents in the state to provide a Social Security number to get a driver’s license.

The General Assembly approved the bill, SB602, last week in the final hours of the regular session. If signed by the governor, it would change the state’s license law to say the Division of Motor Vehicles cannot issue a driver’s license unless the applicant provides a valid Social Security number, The Associated Press reported.

Anyone unable to provide a Social Security number can still get a license as long as they provide a taxpayer identification number.

Another effort that received legislative approval in the waning hours of the session would allow drivers between the ages of 18 and 53 to renew their licenses for eight-year terms. The current renewal period is five years.

That bill, HB267, would also allow all applicants for new driver’s licenses to get their permanent licenses by mail. Currently, licenses must be picked up from local Department of Motor Vehicles offices.

But removed from the bill was a provision that would have allowed drivers to renew their licenses on the Internet.

The House rejected a Senate effort that would have allowed drivers with permanently revoked licenses to ask judges to give them limited driving privileges. The effort was intended to allow affected drivers to travel to work or the grocery store.

Opponents said the bill – SB1087 – would treat those with permanently revoked licenses better than people who have temporarily lost their privileges for relatively minor offenses, The AP reported.

Another failed effort would have allowed law enforcement officers to snap photos of drivers who cannot produce identification to verify who they are.

Rep. Dale Folwell, R-Winston-Salem, said the bill – HB2881 – was intended to ease concerns that some unlicensed drivers often give officers false names and information, The AP reported.

Had the bill been approved, it would have required those photos to be attached to court files with the driver’s violation, which could include an infraction for driving without a license. If drivers gave false information about their identities, the verification photo would have enabled the actual person to prove to a court that they weren’t behind the wheel when the infraction occurred.

One other bill, HB1125, that failed to gain passage sought to help clean up roadways in the state by requiring anyone applying for a driver’s license, learner’s permit or identification card to sign a pledge stating “I will not litter.”

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor