Will New York’s Driver’s License Revamp Prompt One in Massachusetts?

Let's hope Massachusetts doesn't follow with an license revamp that's crazy, fancy, and expensive.

It looks like our friends in that state to the south are going platinum with their driver’s licenses—or polycarbonate, anyway. The New York Times carried a front page report yesterday on how, starting in July, New York driver’s licenses will be issued on hard, polycarbonate cards and feature laser-engraved black and white photos. The laser engraving requires extremely expensive machines and supposedly makes the cards much more difficult to counterfeit. “The new production method and a barrage of features both seen and unseen will make the licenses, officials say, virtually impossible to forge,” the Times reports. Apparently, the cards are so stiff and heavy that “they sound like a compact disc when dropped.” (Note for both our older and younger readers, these are “compact discs.”)

In Virginia, the one state where this type of production has already been put into effect, officials claim that they have not seen a single credible counterfeit. More on the cards:

Personal data is also engraved, as is a “ghost image,” a small, second portrait of the driver that will float in a transparent window and will be visible from the front and the back. All of the elements are then fused together into what the department calls “a solid, monolithic structure that cannot be separated into layers and tampered with.”

Wow. “A solid, monolithic structure that cannot be separated into layers and tampered with.” You know things are getting serious when your description for an ID card could also apply to Stonehenge. And you also know that means that somebody here in Massachusetts will pretty soon suggest that our state give this a try. After all, with all our college students, Massachusetts is about as anal retentive as it gets when it comes to ID’s. It seems like our licenses get redesigned every few years and, considering that the last update was in 2010, it feels about like we’re due.

But seriously, is this worth all the cost and effort? The Times story notes that there are security concerns with ID’s beyond preventing underage drinking … but also admits that this is pretty much all about underage drinking. The story also says that the new licenses will cost about $1 more per ID to produce and print, which of course adds up fast. Here in Massachusetts, our current ID’s are already pretty darn fancy (all those wavy lines!) and we all know that just about any teenager under 21 who really wants alcohol is going to get alcohol anyway. Not that anyone here would fall into the trap of thinking we need to keep up with New York when and however possible, but let’s hope that any crusading lawmakers resist the urge, at least just this once.