North Dakota upgrades licenses

BISMARCK Residents of North Dakota whose driver’s license expiration date is approaching may be surprised to find that their renewed license looks a little different than their old one.

After roughly a decade of North Dakotans being issued the current license design, the North Dakota Department of Transportation went into production mode with the new licenses last week in Bismarck after extensive product testing but will begin slowly filtering across the rest of the state, according to Jamie Olson, a spokeswoman with the NDDOT.

“Right now we’re trying to go around the state counterclockwise,” said Glenn Jackson, director of driver’s license division in the NDDOT. “Our goal is to have it out statewide by the end of June. We may miss that by a week or so, but that’s what we’re shooting for.”

Jackson said that the new technology puts North Dakota at the cutting edge for license designs. With the new features, a great amount of training and various technological upgrades outside of the license designs will have to be put into the field. Already, which is normal for new products, there have been some minor problems cropping up in production mode that were not evident in initial testing.

Jackson said that North Dakota has been lucky in not being a popular state for license counterfeiting but maybe that all could change as the rest of the nation has a new focus on the state and new residents continue to flood in. With the changes in technology available to both counterfeiters and licensing agencies the time has come, he said, to stay a step ahead.

The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, which is comprised of administrators from every U.S. state and Canadian province, has been looking into what to implement into new designs, and the new licenses will incorporate those recommendations.

“We believe it was time to implement the new standard security features in order to stay one step ahead of those trying to counterfeit our licenses,” he said.

While the most immediately obvious new feature of the card is a different background color to show immediate variation from its predecessor, of the primary changes perhaps the new laminate and card materials themselves may be the biggest improvement.

“The materials we’re using to make the actual licenses has changed. When you get a new license you’ll notice it’s a little bit thinner,” he said “There’s laser imaging in the material and the new laminate helps deter tampering.”

In older designs, counterfeiters would often peel up the laminate from the license, insert a new picture and then reseal the whole thing to use as a fake. That’s impossible now because “it’s a blend of various polymers and laminates blended together that are not easily duplicable,” and even boasts an “ND” logo implemented by laser perforation that when held up to the light can be seen through the entire card itself. The logo overlaps with the image of the licensee itself and so would not be seen if a new image were inserted above it.

The card also features what Jackson calls ‘ghost portraits’ of the licensee with words and logos printed within it, also deterring the insertion of a false photo.

Upgrading to the new licenses will not require any additional costs outside of the standard renewal fee. Current North Dakota licenses are still good until their expiration dates.