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The Daily Tar Heel

North Carolina begins phasing out old driver's licenses for updated design

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Photos courtesy of Adobe Stock

The N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles will begin phasing out its current driver’s license in favor of a new design, featuring new security features intended to combat fraud and make it easier to detect fake IDs.

The new card has over 50 security features which will make it more difficult to produce convincing fake IDs. These include raised and lowered patterns, complex graphics and a new polycarbonate composition — a heat-resistant plastic used in things like CDs and riot shields. 

The new design is the first major change to the state ID in nine years. Marty Homan, the NCDMV communications manager, said that it is an industry standard to replace a state's ID design every five to eight years, and the current design's lifespan happened to coincide with the end of the DMV's contract with the vendor of the previous card. 

Compared to the old cards which are made of PPG Teslin, the new material is stiffer and will produce a distinctive metallic sound when dropped.

Maddi Lane, a managing partner at The Pitch, said she thinks the new security features, particularly the grooves and the noise the card makes when dropped, will help identify fake IDs more quickly and accurately. 

At The Pitch, because they do not have an ID scanner, they visually inspect every ID at the door and at the bar, she said. This process can become difficult at large events, and is particularly challenging when hosting student organizations that have an age range of individuals over and under 21. 

“We have hundreds of people per event sometimes and people are just flashing their ID,” she said. “It can be hard for us to feel like we're really getting a diligent look at each card.”

The new card features many symbols of North Carolina, such as the dogwood, the state flag, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and a marbled salamander, all set in front of mountains. On the back of the card stands a Colonial Spanish Mustang — the state horse — grazing at the beach.

Homan said the complexity of these designs is a part of the new security features.

“The way the card is printed makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to fake,” he said.

Ryan Daniels, Carrboro Police Department patrol captain, said that while he hasn’t received an official list of all the new security features yet, what he has seen already is a big step up from the previous card. 

“The fact that they’re changing it up and changing the material, which is a big thing, that's gonna definitely help with guys getting fake IDs for $50 online,” he said.

The rollout of new IDs comes just one year before the deadline to obtain an N.C. Real ID, which will be a new requirement to board an aircraft, visit military bases or federal facilities. Real IDs are not required to drive, vote or testify in court.

Though the old N.C. driver's license will stop being produced by the end of June, the design will remain valid. It may be years until the new IDs are consistently in circulation, Daniels said.

"People are going to have to get new cards, or they're going to have to expire to get replaced," he said. "But down the road, I think it's going to help us significantly with fraudulent IDs and purchasing alcohol, that sort of thing, for sure." 

@DTHCityandStatecity@dailytarheel.com

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