- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2003

ANNAPOLIS Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. yesterday showed off Maryland's new driver's license, which features high-tech components to foil counterfeiters and protect against identity theft.
"This is the latest measure to ensure the security of the 5 million people who call Maryland home," said Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, at news conference in front of the State House. "This new license is more secure and durable than ever before."
The governor said the license's new look reflects his focus on increasing homeland security but that the redesign began before the September 11 terrorist attacks that "changed our lives forever."
Mr. Ehrlich also said the updated card and the Motor Vehicle Administration's (MVA) licensing system was tweaked after September 11 to enhance security features.
Last month the MVA began testing its new paperless application process for driver's licenses and issuing the cards at its Waldorf office. The licenses will soon be available at the Frederick and Westminster offices, then statewide by mid-June.
At the news conference, Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan said the new license would be Marylanders' first line of defense for personal security.
"We are way beyond the troubles of 10 or 20 years ago, when our biggest concern was teenagers trying to buy a six-pack of beer," Mr. Flanagan said. "That is still a concern, but we have a much greater concern today when it comes to homeland security."
It took three years and cost $40 million to develop the new license, which resembles a credit card with a smooth surface. The face of the license is covered with an intricate hologram that changes colors red, green and blue when the card is viewed from an angle.
The license bears a large, color image of the Maryland seal near the card's center, and in the upper-right corner is a picture of a female Maryland blue crab, the official state crustacean.
In addition, the card's text is imprinted rather than raised or stamped into the card, giving the license an unusual appearance that will be immediately recognizable by bar doormen and liquor-store clerks screening for underage customers.
To complicate counterfeiting, the photograph on the card will be partially overlaid by the driver's signature, a small image of the state seal and a serial number. A small, holographic image of the driver's photograph will be displayed in the lower-right corner of the card with the driver's birth date across it.
For added security, the license will include microprint text that can be read only with a magnifying glass.
"Those are just the security measures we can talk about in a public forum," Mr. Ehrlich said.
The back of the license will no longer have a magnetic strip containing only the driver's license number, which is easily scratched and rendered unreadable. The new back will feature a two-dimensional bar code, larger and more sophisticated than the one now found on the front of licenses.
The bar code will contain all the data found on the front of the card: license number, eye color, height, weight and birth date. The information can be read by police or anyone with a bar-code reader to verify that the front of the license hadn't been altered.
Eventually, the bar code could hold biometric information when the technology is more refined, said MVA Administrator Anne S. Ferro, who joined Mr. Ehrlich at the news conference.
She said the cost of developing the card was high because the driver's licensing system from the application process for customers to the data system behind the cards was rebuilt. The basic application program supporting the system was 30 years old, and the licenses hadn't had a makeover in nearly a decade.
It cost $32 million for the Compaq division of Hewlett-Packard Co. to build the system and $8 million to maintain it, Mrs. Ferro said.
The system will be tied into the National Drivers Registry and the Social Security Administration to double-check people's identification when they apply for a new or renewed license.
The new licenses will also be color-coded: blue licenses for most drivers, green for commercial haulers, purple for moped riders. There will also be red state ID cards and black temporary licenses.
Drivers younger than 21 will no longer have a profile photograph on their licenses. Instead, their cards will be formatted vertically as opposed to horizontally like the regular licenses.
The MVA renews about 1 million licenses a year, and officials estimate that new licenses will have replaced the old version in about five years.
Current driver's licenses or identification cards are still valid until the expiration date. The renewal fee will still be $30 for a driver's license and $50 for a commercial driver's license, an MVA spokesman said.

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