New driver's license just the latest change in our post-9-11 lives

World of Difference

A new federal law includes a provision calling for more uniformity among state-issued driver's licenses.


Florida driver's licenses have been redesigned to thwart counterfeiting, identity theft as well as prevent underage drinking.

The Associated Press
Published: Thursday, January 6, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 5, 2005 at 11:57 p.m.

Facts

Security changes after 9-11

  • HORIZONTAL LICENSE: For anyone over the age of 21.
  • VERTICAL LICENSE: For anyone under the age of 21.
  • PROMINENT DATE: Shows date when underage driver turns 21.
  • SECURITY MEASURES: Some are visible only under uiltraviolet light, under magnification or with special equipment.
  • PHOTOS: The digital photo of the driver is overlapped by the state seal.
  • GHOST IMAGE: A second photo of the driver is faded in another location.
  • BACKGROUND: A beach scene background makes the license harder to reproduce.
  • LETTERING: Difficult to copy or reproduce.
  • BAR CODE: On back of license

  • After months of delay, Florida's redesigned driver's license finally might start being issued out of Gainesville and a few other area offices later this month.
    Add the new security-enhanced license to the list of alterations to Americans' lifestyle brought on by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It's the latest in a string of changes that include more stringent searches at airports, restricted access to sporting venues and tighter college admissions requirements for international students.
    A new law President Bush signed in December - meant primarily to restructure the nation's intelligence operations - includes a provision calling for more uniformity among state-issued driver's licenses. It mandates a variety of federal anti-terrorism standards to make licenses less vulnerable to counterfeiting and to help deter identity theft and other fraud.
    "From everything we've seen, we think we will not have to make any changes to the new design," said Julie Baker, director of public affairs for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
    In its new driver's license redesign introduced last spring - but still available only by mail, phone or Internet renewal - Florida incorporated all of the security enhancements mandated by the intelligence-reform law.
    They include a digital photograph, a magnetic strip and bar code encoded with such personal information as name, gender, address and date of birth, and a variety of invisible security features designed to be read only by a special machine or under ultraviolet light.
    In addition, Florida's license has different formats for two different age groups. For people under 21, the license features a vertical format that makes it more difficult for under-agers to buy liquor or enter a bar or club. The traditional horizontal format remains for people 21 and older.
    "We worked closely with the national authorities and other states in designing our new license," Baker said.
    Some groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, have criticized uniform standards for driver's licenses as being one step away from a national ID card.
    "This is something characteristic of dictatorships," the ACLU's Marv Johnson recently told Newhouse News Service.
    Supporters of the standards, including the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, say they are designed only to assist law enforcement.
    Changes on campus The debate over driver's licenses illustrates the many ways life has changed in the post-9-11 era.
    At the University of Florida, part of the $50 fee charged to international students applying for admission is used to conduct background checks on them.
    Airplanes towing advertising banners now can't fly as close to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium as they once could.
    The Federal Aviation Administration restricts aircraft to a distance of three miles and an altitude of 3,000 feet from the stadium, said Chip Howard, UF's assistant athletic director for auxiliary services.
    "Before 9-11, there weren't any rules," he said. "Sometimes those planes would fly over the seating bowl."
    Howard said that since the attacks, the stadium is locked down on Thursday nights now instead of just Friday night before a Saturday football game. A full security sweep of the stadium is conducted each of the two days preceding a game.
    Fans today enter the stadium through fewer gates, maneuver around concrete barriers that weren't in place before the 2001 season and have their purses, tote bags and other personal belongings inspected. Howard said the list of items prohibited from inside the stadium has "expanded exponentially since 9-11," including backpacks and large camera cases.
    He said that before the start of next football season, extra security cameras should be installed throughout the stadium.
    "That's something I don't think would have happened without 9-11," Howard said.
    Santa Fe Community College's police chief, Daryl Johnson, said the terrorist attacks prompted security changes at the school.
    "We have an 'incident command system' for local crises," said Johnson, who also is director of SFCC's Institute of Public Safety. "Instead of a single officer handling an incident, we have a crisis-management team. It's designed to deal with everything from a small traffic crash to the largest crisis event."
    He said the system, established by a directive from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, most recently was used to deal with a couple of homicides on campus as well as the hurricanes in September that shut down the school for several days.
    A new way to fly Some of the most significant changes for American consumers since 9-11 have been in air travel.
    At Gainesville Regional Airport, only passengers now are allowed in the waiting room near the boarding gate. Before the attacks, people seeing passengers off could join them in the room.
    Air travelers have become used to longer waits for increasingly thorough security inspections.
    They've learned to take off their shoes and jackets as they approach security checkpoints, and to put questionable items - such as nail clippers - in check-in baggage instead of in carry-ons.
    Modest lifestyle changes will continue with Florida's new driver's license. Not likely to change, however, even with the enhanced security of digital technology, is the historically goofy quality of the driver's license photo.
    Bob Arndorfer can be reached at (352) 374-5042 or arndorb@gvillesun.com.

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