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Redesigned driver's licenses roll out this fall

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Georgia drivers will begin hitting the roads this fall with new, multi-colored driver's licenses that include such safety features as: "ghost images," embossed, laser-engraved signatures, wavy "guilloche design" lines, tamper-resistant coating, and a bar code that can be used to verify the identity of the license holder.

Gov. Sonny Perdue announced the redesign on Thursday. It is the first change to the appearance of the licenses since 1996.

"Everyone knows all we have done to reduce lines and waits at driver's license centers, but another key priority of the department is safeguarding the identities of Georgia citizens and preventing document fraud," Perdue said in a written statement. "These new cards will be the most secure our state has ever issued."

Production of the new licenses will begin in September at drivers services facilities in Locust Grove, Conyers and Covington, and the statewide roll out will take place in November, said Department of Drivers Services Spokesperson Susan Sports.

Five-year licenses will continue to cost $20, and 10-year licenses will still cost $35, Sports said. She added that not all of the approximately 6.5 million drivers in Georgia will be required to get new licenses right away, and people can wait until their current license expires before obtaining one with the new design.

Sports said the state is updating its equipment for creating driver's license because, at 13 years old, the technology -- printers, computers, etc. -- is out of date and it is hard to get placement parts.

Sports said a Department of Drivers Service design-review committee wanted a license that represented the state, so a peach and the outline of Georgia are in the middle of the new cards. She said committee members also consulted law enforcement officials and retailers on readability issues, and drivers services officials in other states on best-security practices.

"I think it's safe to say this will probably be the safest license the state has ever issued," she said. "We've always had safe driver's licenses. Even years before homeland security became as important as it is now, we needed to see documentation of identity and proof that you lived in Georgia before you could receive a driver's license. This only makes it more secure."

Key features of the new driver's licenses include:

· A different license layout for drivers under 21. It will be the same size as other licenses, except the card will have to be read vertically instead of horizontally.

· The coating on the card will be placed in layers to make it harder for someone to place a fake photograph on the card, Sports said.

· The machine-readable bar code on the back of the card, which will include all of the identifying information listed on the front of the card, can be scanned by banks and retailers to verify the identity of the person presenting the card.

· The wavy "guilloche design" lines, which are also used on paper money in the U.S., and are difficult to reproduce, Sports said.

· The laser-engraved, embossed signatures of the governor and the commissioner of the Department of Drivers Services, which Sports said people will be able to feel on the license card. She said signatures printed on fake licenses that are created on a laser printer would not be noticeable by touch.

Sports said there are other safety features on the card, but the Department of Drivers Services is only announcing those features to law enforcement officials, so they will be able to further identify a fake driver's license.

With all of the security features that will be included on the redesigned driver's licenses, Sports said officials from the Department of Drivers Services believe this will cut down on the number of fake licenses being used in the state.