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Coming Soon To A Phone Near You: Electronic Driver's Licenses

Photo of a man behind steering wheel holding out a smartphone. / bernardbobo

Utah drivers could soon be able to throw their wallets out the window under a new law permitting digital driver’s licenses.

Gov. Gary Herbert signed legislation on Wednesday that instructs the state’s Driver License Division to study the costs and procedures to creating electronic license certificates.

Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, was the bill’s sponsor during the session. He told lawmakers this will allow Utah to stay on the forefront of technology.

“For a lot of citizens, the only reason they carry a wallet is because it has a driver’s license in it. Everything else — all their money, all their history, all their calendars, is on the computer that they keep in their pocket,” he told the House Transportation Committee in February.

Several other states, including West Virginia and Maine, are launching similar pilot programs.

Utah will first start with an RFI — or request for information — looking at potential vendors to create an app that would eventually store people’s I.D.s.

Fillmore said electronic copies would not meet federal requirements, however, so drivers will still need to carry a hard copy for things like boarding an airplane.

The state is expected to have the program up and running by 2021.

“Governments are generally, on this issue, a little bit behind the times, and we’re working just to catch up to provide this as an option to our citizens who want it,” Fillmore said.

The governor also signed into law a bill that decreases the frequency required for renewing a license. Drivers will now be able to renew their I.D.s every eight years instead of five.

Lawmakers bumped up the renewal fee, from $32 to $52, offsetting some of the decline in revenue that is expected from the change.

That law takes effect at the beginning of 2020.

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