Iowa’s DOT Plans to Rollout Digital Driver’s License

The Department of Transportation (DOT) in  Iowa is planning to rollout a digital driver’s license. The agency disclosed that it is developing a secure mobile app that would contain all the information found on the plastic driver’s license.

The Iowa DOT said the digital driver’s license will have a bar code that can be scanned and linked directly to its database. The agency said it will ensure that the data on the digital driver’s license are verified and up-to-date.

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The digital driver’s license looks the same as the plastic driver’s license, which displays the photo of the Iowa resident who owns it.  Iowa residents can use the digital driver’s license as identification during security screening at the airport, traffic stops or to purchase liquor.

During traffic stops, the Iowa State Patrol and Des Moines Police Department explained that the bar code of the digital driver’s license will scanned using a hardware, which is integrated in the officers’ cruiser.

According to officials, it possible for officers to use hand-held scanners or other devices to scan the digital driver’s license, but it would be a significant procedural transition and cost.

Digital driver’s license potential impact

Nicholas Sarcone, an attorney at West Des Moines commented that there are so many issues to resolve given the fact the a driver needs to handover the smartphone to the officer to scan the bar code on his cruiser.

“There are so many logistical problems because of the differences in cellphones and the way people maintain their cellphones,” said Sarcone.

He added that the idea of implementing a digital driver’s license is cool. He said, “In theory, it’s a really cool idea. The thought of having my license on my phone is great, but it can be a problem.”  However, Sarcone sees a “greater potential for harm coming from purely accidental circumstances, where the police officer has to open the license and by mistake comes across something they shouldn’t come across.”

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that a warrant is required before an officer could search a person’s mobile device to look for incriminating information.

DOT has no plans to replace the plastic driver’s license

Iowa spent $20,000 to develop the digital driver’s license app, and the agency has no plans to replace the plastic driver’s license. The agency said it will use its works to test the digital driver’s license over the next six months. It will evaluate potential issues during the testing period and they will upgrade the digital driver’s license based on their experience.

Mark Lowe, director is Motor Vehicles in Iowa suggested that it is more likely for the digital driver’s license to be rolled out to the residents of the state in 2016.