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New driver’s licenses to be issued in Nevada

CARSON CITY — Starting Friday in the capital city, the Department of Motor Vehicles will begin issuing driver’s licenses that have a new look and include security features that make them difficult to counterfeit.

Unlike in the past, drivers will not be given their new licenses immediately after they pay for them and have their new picture taken.

Instead holes will be punched in their old licenses which will be handed back to them. The drivers also will be given a temporary certificate that allows them to continue driving for as long as 30 days.

During that time period, the new "Central Issuance" licenses will be produced at L-1 Identity Solutions’ secured facility in California and mailed to the drivers, hopefully within 10 working days.

"The Central Issuance system is in use in 14 states," said DMV Director Ginny Lewis. "It is proven technology that has been shown to improve the security of the license itself and the data behind it."

The new licenses should reduce counterfeiting and identity theft, she said.

Drivers should not visit DMV offices to acquire new licenses until their expiration date, a DMV spokesman said. The new licenses will be issued to drivers whose licenses are expiring and to new drivers.

Plans call for DMV offices in Northern Nevada and in the rural counties to begin issuing the new licenses this month and in Southern Nevada by mid-November.

The decision to launch the new license program in Northern Nevada, specifically in the Carson City DMV, was made because DMV executives and the people who designed the new licenses are there. If there are any problems with the new licenses, they can quickly take steps to correct them.

DMV spokesman Tom Jacobs said his agency realized it needed to develop a more secure license and another way of distributing licenses after the 2005 break-in of the DMV office at 4110 Donovan Way in North Las Vegas.

Thieves rammed a truck into the building and carted away 1,700 blank licenses, a computer, a digital camera and license printer. The items later were recovered. The thieves never used the supplies to create counterfeit licenses, according to DMV.

Jacobs said the DMV knew the existing licenses were too easy to counterfeit and data on drivers should not have been stored at the office.

He also said a fraternity at the University of Nevada, Reno was discovered to have been creating "nice" Nevada driver’s licenses.

The biggest change in the new license is that it carries two driver photos, one large and one small, instead of just one.

The smaller photo is a laser-cut ghost image that will be difficult to counterfeit, Jacobs said. A laser-engraved outline of the state of Nevada also is printed within the small photo.

Numerous squiggly lines — similar to those found on paper money — also are being printed on the new licenses.

Before new licenses are printed at the facility in California, Jacobs said employees there will use facial recognition equipment to determine if the new photo and information match what the DMV has in its records for each driver.

If there are suspicions that they do not match, an investigation will be launched. This check is designed to prevent identity theft.

Jacobs said drivers will notice five obvious license changes made to improve security, but another five changes will be made known only to law enforcement officers.

L-1 Identity Solutions produces about 80 percent of the centrally issued driver’s licenses in the United States, along with 35 million other identification documents.

The licenses will be mailed to drivers in an envelope with the DMV’s return address, but not the name of the agency.

While some people might be concerned their new licenses could be taken out of their mailboxes and used by thieves, Jacobs said credit cards also are mailed to consumers. A credit card could be more easily used by a thief than a license since the thief would have to resemble the driver, he said.

The new licenses will cost 75 cents more than the old ones; that’s enough to pay the changes. Nevada licenses cost $22 and remain valid for four years. The same rates apply to people who do not drive, but use licenses for ID cards.

Residents 65 and older will pay $17, also a 75-cent increase.

"What Nevadans get for that 75 cents is what one Department of Homeland Security official called the most secure cards in the United States in term of counterfeiting," Lewis said.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

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