Drivers In Illinois Could Soon Be Able To Use Digital Drivers Licenses

Technology / 13 Comments

Carrying a physical license is so last century.

A bill has unanimously passed through a House committee in the Illinois State Capitol and is under further consideration to allow people to carry and use a digital driving license, according to Illinois-based WCIA. The proposal would ensure drivers wouldn't get a ticket for not having their physical license on their person if their digital version is accessible on an electronic device - as in a smartphone.

It's about time, and we would love to see it happen and spread through other states as digital licenses and IDs have become common. For the naysayers, this doesn't mean physical licenses would go away. Not immediately, anyway.


The fact of the matter is that phones are becoming wallets, and, for quite a few people, the only reason to carry a wallet much of the time is for a driver's license. There are issues worth considering, though - some worth bearing in mind and some worth dismissing.

"We're taking way too much technology, and it's being abused because then if you have everything going digital, then what happens when everything crashes?" says some random driver in the original report.

The reality there is that everything is already digital. That chip on your card strip across the back of a debit/credit card is digital. Even if you get cash from a bank, the teller uses the digital information contained, and the transaction is conducted digitally. Taking that money is digital now; if "everything crashes," driver's licenses will be low ranked on the list of societal problems that occur.

Security, though, is a valid concern and addressed by the Secretary of State's office says the digital driver's licenses are secure, saying that: "They are encrypted and rely on state-of-the-art technology to protect the owner from fraud and identity theft."

Predictably, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police opposes the bill, citing caution over security and the question of hacking, and that will likely repeat itself across the states as we move forward. However, we'll bet that the chiefs of police use debit and credit cards. People also use digital ID and tickets at many airports where security is as tight as it gets. It's also worth pointing out that it's pretty damn easy to acquire a police uniform and reproduce a police badge.

The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police's executive director, Kenny Winslow, says: "We want some protections for our officers as well, as well as to ensure that we're not liable for any phones they may get dropped as we're trying to hand out the window then falls to the ground, that kind of thing."

However, we should point out that staff at fast-food restaurants and drive-through coffee stores manage just fine. Perhaps Winslow has never been through a drive-thru, but we have, and the phone doesn't need to leave the owner's hand, let alone their nice warm Civic or 3 Series. Police officers could use a nice holster for their near-field communication devices.

Much as we love the idea of cops having to carry drive-thru style scanners, though, they would likely use their department-issued cell phones and an app to check licenses. Also, it would save them from having to take the license back to the police car and use the computer there before returning it to the driver.

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