Driving in the ID digital age

A cop pulls you over, and as you reach for your license, you realize you forgot your license at home. What do you do now? Well, apparently in some states, if you have a digital copy of your license you can show that to the police officer and it’s legal. That’s right, use a scanned or photographed copy of the license or insurance policy.

Hold up, however, because upon further review, you cannot show a digital copy of your license in Wisconsin or in most states, but you can show a digital copy of your insurance. You can use a digital copy of your insurance in most states except for Connecticut, District of Columbia, New Mexico and Massachusetts according to an article, “Here in a Flash: Digital Driver’s Licenses Due to Replace Arcane Plastic Cards,” by Bridget Clerkin.

While you might think about getting a digital copy of your driver’s license, it’s not yet available in Wisconsin. According to Clerkin, Idaho, Iowa, Maryland, Colorado, and Washington, D.C., all have pilot programs and are moving forward on full-scale launch of the app that will hold your digital license. It’s being tested in seven other states as well.

The new digital license will hold all the same information your current license holds plus the barcode. It will also show when your license was last updated and be able to be updated on the spot according to “What New Digital Driver’s Licenses Mean for Motorists, Police” by Tom Metcalfe. Digital licenses will be protected by PIN code or thumbprint in order to open the license on your phone.

According to Metcalfe, the advantage of digital licenses is knowing that your license information is stored on your mobile device instead of on a card. You could lose your wallet and lose your license, but if you find the smartphone you can feel like your information is protected.

But what if the cop takes your phone and looks at other details? Or what about hackers who could steal your information? It’s easy to not only hack, but also to Photoshop a digital license and change what a person looks like. According to Metcalfe, cellphones are legally protected against police searches, but do you trust that if you hand your phone to the cops that they won’t be tempted to look at other parts of your phone?

Digital licenses could make your life easier. You wouldn’t have to carry an extra plastic card with you. I don’t know about you, but I don’t fully trust the digital world. Sometimes things that are easier, are not always better. I would like to see this digital license in play longer, with the kinks worked out before I trust all my important information. I want to believe it would be a nice new addition, but until I can trust that my information is safe, I won’t buy in, which is OK.

Right now, obtaining a digital license is strictly voluntary, according to NBC, and the states will continue to issue traditional plastic licenses. Guess we will have to wait to see if the digital license comes to Wisconsin, but for now, if you want, you can carry around a digital copy of your insurance policy.