Digital driver licenses could replace plastic

Oklahoma is testing a new digital driver license program that may allow Oklahomans to ditch their plastic copies. 

OKLAHOMA CITY — About 1,000 Oklahomans are test-driving a new digital driver license program that may one day allow Oklahomans to ditch their plastic copies.

David Ostrowe, the state’s secretary of digital transformation and administration, said the short-term vision is not to replace the traditional plastic license, but ultimately the goal is to push Oklahoma toward modernizing driver licenses.

“The feedback has been overwhelmingly good,” Ostrowe said. “I have had skeptics … am I giving Big Brother my information? I want to remind (people) that Big Brother always has your information.”

All drivers are legally required to carry their plastic licenses, and Ostrowe said the plastic copies won’t be going away for anyone who might be wary of making the switch.

Ostrowe said the application, which uses facial recognition, only works with Apple products, but they’re working on a solution for Android phones.

While only a select number of people have access to it, he’s hoping to offer the product to all Oklahomans in October.

“My goal is to get a minimum of 100,000 deployed with a lot of young people who get ID'ed frequently to help educate the public that these things are here,” he said.

Ostrowe said once the system is fully operational, Oklahomans will not only be able to carry digital copies of their driver license, but also other documents like their boarding passes and hunting and fishing licenses in a wallet on their phones.

“This application will help simplify your life,” he said. “It will open you up to bigger and better identity fraud (protection) capability when you deal with transactions.”

Ostrowe said Iowa and Louisiana have a digital driver license in place.

Sgt. Jared Sandifer, with the Louisiana State Police, said in an email he couldn’t speak to how well their digital license works, but troopers there honor any form of identification that is recognized by the motor vehicles division.

Iowa officials did not return a message left seeking comment.

Eventually, Oklahoma’s system will allow law enforcement to interact wirelessly with motorists during traffic stops to help verify people’s identities before the officer leaves a car, Ostrowe said.

Motorists want to know the officer who stopped them is real, and the application tracks officer interaction, he said.

“We’re trying to increase officer safety and citizen safety and ease some of these processes that go on every day,” Ostrowe said. “When you actually use your face to open this application, you will do a handshake with the Department of Public Safety database to make sure everything is current.”

Some Oklahoma troopers have been made aware of the new mobile driver license and have been told to accept it as an official identification, officials said.

Sarah Stewart, a spokeswoman with Department of Public Safety, said separate software is required for law enforcement interaction. A law enforcement focus group to build it won’t begin until late fall.

But she’s among the first group Oklahomans test-driving the software.

While she hasn’t had the opportunity to try it in public yet, she said it’s pretty cool and allows people to customize the information that they show to people.

“You can hide certain information if you want,” she said.

Ostrowe said the application is free to the public, and he doesn’t want the law enforcement portion to cost cities and counties any money.

And though the technology isn’t active for law enforcement agencies, he said flashing the new digital license is bound to catch an officer’s attention during a traffic stop.

“It will start a conversation that will probably get you out of a ticket,” he said.

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Stecklein is CNHI Oklahoma Capitol Bureau Chief for CNHI News Service publication newspapers.

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