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Maryland bill could introduce digital driver's licenses

Glen Burnie, MD - In every state in America, you need a valid driver's license in order to get behind the wheel. In fact, approximately 218 million Americans had driver's licenses in 2015. And most licenses are hard copies that can be carried around in a wallet. But Maryland may soon offer residents the chance to have an electronic license.

The electronic licenses would be a second kind of driver's license to use in addition to the traditional licenses. Maryland residents could download and use the "Motor Driver's License" smartphone app to provide a digital version of their license.

If passed, House Bill 180 would start the implementation of the additional licenses. The digital license concept was introduced by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators along with the Motor Vehicle Administration of the Netherlands.

According to the Motor Vehicle Administration, the digital licenses will put people into one of these identifiers: "UNDER 18", "OVER 18/UNDER 21" or "OVER 21". The information the app gives regarding the license will also only show what is necessary for the person requesting it. So while retailers will only be shown the photo, name, and identifier of the person, law enforcement will have access to all of the normal information shown on licenses. And with there being about 5.5 million car accidents in the U.S. every year, the ability to quickly identify someone using their phone could be beneficial.

The new digital licenses would work by using Quick Response codes, or QR codes. The black and white pixelated square will be able to be scanned using the app by the person asking for the ID, so either law enforcement or retailers. Smartphones can quickly scan the QR code associated with the person's license and see the information they're requesting.

Although, there are some concerns with these new licenses. According to a Maryland State Licensed Beverage Associated representative, many alcohol retailers have already invested in scanning technologies to check IDs that may not be able to scan the new digital licenses. Also, it may be more difficult to see if someone has a previous criminal charge, like how a person charged with a third or subsequent offense can be charged with a felony. Furthermore, the state transportation agency did say that some older smartphones may not be able to download the app. This is why these licenses are meant to be used alongside normal licenses and not as a replacement.

While this bill does have strong support, there was also a proposed amendment that would allow retailers to accept digital licenses voluntarily.

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