State redesigns driver's licenses, now available at clerk's office

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By Calen McKinney



"I'm going to take your picture in 3, 2, 1," she says, and then the camera captures his image.

Eduardo Guzman has just renewed his driver's license. And this one looks a bit different than the one he had been carrying in his wallet for the past four years.

Kentucky driver's licenses have recently received a makeover in an effort to make them a bit more difficult to duplicate.

New equipment is being installed at circuit court clerks' offices around the state to offer the revamped licenses.

Kentucky State Police License Examiner Johnnie Tarter gives written and road driving tests to residents in Taylor, Adair, Green, Cumberland and Wayne counties.

Some test counties were chosen to get new equipment first, Tarter said, and the rest of state's counties are now falling in line. All of Kentucky's 120 counties should be offering the new licenses by next month, he said.

Taylor County's new equipment, which was paid for by the Administrative Office of the Courts that operates on state tax dollars, was installed last Wednesday at the Taylor Circuit Court Clerk's office in the Taylor County Judicial Center.

The new system is more modern, Tarter said, and more compact. He said the system also includes a new camera, which focuses more on a person's facial features. He said that will make a person's license photo more clear and make people's features and distinguishing marks more identifiable.

Taylor Circuit Court Clerk Rodney Burress said the system also doesn't require that a person sit in the chair that is often used for licenses. He said those in a wheelchair won't have to move from their chair to have their photo taken and for children who get an identification, the camera will be able to detect their image even though they will likely be shorter than someone getting a driver's license.

Burress, who serves on the state's driver's license committee, said the system will also tell deputy clerks if there is a problem with the photo taken, such as the person's eyes are shut.

The new system will also keep stock of license supplies and automatically order what deputies need.

Though he doesn't have any figures, Tarter said he believes the new license system is pretty expensive. But overall, he said, the system is similar to the previous one in operation and adds some needed security features.

"I think it's a good change," he said.

And though new equipment could experience some problems at first, he said, that will hopefully be infrequent. He said Taylor County's clerk's office experienced trouble with its old system somewhat often.

Burress said there have been a few issues with the system statewide, but, so far, the one at his office is working well.

"It just makes the license harder to forge," he said.

Though he said he believes the state hasn't had much trouble with residents duplicating licenses, Tarter said some people will naturally try to beat the system. He said the state has tried to change its identification cards every few years for that purpose.

"They claim that it's just extra hard to duplicate."

Tarter said he believes the last change was made in the mid to late 1990s.

The new license also allows veterans to have a "veteran" designation printed on their license. Tarter said veterans must bring a DD214 form to the clerk's office to get the designation.

Several veterans have asked for the "veteran" designation so far, Tarter said. He said many businesses offer discounts to veterans. Having the designation printed on a license makes that much easier.

An "organ donor" designation is also featured on the license, though Tarter says that isn't available just yet.

The new licenses also feature a "ghost image" of the driver in the lower right hand corner, a difficult to duplicate background with blue dots and letters in various fonts and sizes.

Tarter said new equipment makes the old equipment completely obsolete.

"Our system was kinda outdated," he said. "You have to stay updated."

Tarter said the new system also allows deputy clerks to scan Social Security, birth certificate and other documents. He said the system will eventually be searchable by law enforcement officials.

The new system will also allow deputies to see a person's previous photo when they are renewing their driver's license, which Tarter says is an extra feature that will help ensure someone can't steal another person's identity.

When someone renews their license, he said, they sometimes don't have their old one. That will mean clerks have to trust that a person tells the truth when they say who they are and give their Social Security number.

Tarter says residents don't have to get a new driver's license until their current one expires. However, he said, if someone wants the newly-redesigned license, they can get a duplicate one made for $12. The cost to renew a license is $20 and they are valid for four years.

The process to get and renew a license hasn't changed, Tarter said.

To get a permit, those who are age 16 but younger than 18 must have a parent or legal guardian, their original birth certificate and Social Security card and a letter from the teenager's school stating that he or she is passing their classes.

Tarter offers the written permit test each Thursday from 8 to 10:30 a.m. at the circuit clerk's office.

Teens younger than 18 can make an appointment to take the road driving test after having their permit for 180 days.

Once passing, Tarter said, they will have to keep an intermediate license for six months before getting a full license.

Those age 21 or older must have their permits for 30 days before taking the driving test and getting a full license.

Road tests are given each Thursday afternoon and on the first and fifth Tuesday of every month. To make an appointment, call the circuit clerk's office at 465-6686.