By Linda Looney-Bond
All Georgia Department of Driver Services locations across the state are scheduled to begin issuing more secure, state-of-the-art driver's licenses and identification cards this week, according to state officials.
The Henry County location, in Locust Grove, launched the new licensing system early this month, followed by the Clayton County location, in Forest Park, which began the new process last week, according to Susan Sports, spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS).
"December first, Conyers, Covington and Locust Grove all went live," said Sports. "That was a test pilot. They were all close to headquarters here in Conyers," she said.
"There was about a week of test pilot, and a week of soft launch, and once we were satisfied with that, we started launching primarily in metro Atlanta," she added.
The Locust Grove branch is located at 619 Tanger Blvd. The Forest Park office, located at 5036 Ga. Hwy. 85, launched the new system Dec. 16, according to Sports.
As of Monday, approximately 46 DDS branches were issuing the new licenses and identification cards, and all 64 locations should be online with the system by Wednesday, she said. All previously-issued Georgia licenses and ID's will remain valid until the expiration date, according to Sports.
"The safety and security of our citizens is our highest priority, and this newly designed license is another effort to protect Georgians," said Gov. Sonny Perdue, in a written statement.
The new system will help prevent document fraud, and protect the identities of Georgia residents, by using the latest credentialing technology, Sports said.
The new driver's licenses and ID's are designed to be more difficult to counterfeit, alter or replicate, she said, in a written statement.
The new cards have several security features, including "ghost photos," a laser-engraved signature over the primary photo -- to minimize alterations -- and a tamper-resistant coating placed over the card.
The cards will also feature machine-readable barcodes that can be used by banks, retailers and other businesses to verify the information printed on the front.
Another security feature of the new process is designed to combat underage drinking. Information on cards issued to persons under age 21 will be printed vertically, as opposed to horizontally, aiding retailers and law enforcement in identifying minors more quickly, Sports said.
"Another major, new, security feature is the issuance of an interim or temporary license when you visit in person, as opposed to, in the past, you got your actual license," said Sports. "Now, you'll be issued the temporary [license or ID, and the new license will be mailed to your address on file with DDS.
"It allows the verification process," said Sports. "We're required to verify with different agencies before a license is issued, for example, the Social Security Administration," she said.
With the new system, all permanent licenses and ID's will be printed from one central, undisclosed location, according to Sports. "It would be very costly to provide those machines at every center," she said.
Online transactions for certain services, such as initiating a change of address, or replacing a lost license, continue to be available, Sports said.
For more information, visit the agency's web site at www.dds.ga.gov.