Ever reach for your wallet and realize you’ve left it at home? Wonder how you’re supposed to prove your identity or age if you don’t have your driver’s license with you? You might benefit from a Digital Driver License (DDL), a state-approved electronic version of your government-issued driver’s license — accessible on your smartphone.
Currently, only Louisiana has fully implemented a Digital Driver’s License with an official smartphone app. However, several states are considering or already working on their own versions of a DDL. DDLs carry various pros and cons; ultimately, a driver has to weigh them all before deciding whether to sign up.
What Is a Digital Driver License?
A Digital Driver License (DDL) is an electronic version of your driver’s license stored on your smartphone through an app. The DDL isn’t a replacement for your actual driver’s license. It is a supplement, and one that provides invaluable backup. This is similar to how we access our bank accounts on our smartphone.
If or when your state begins using DDL technology, you would need to sign up for the specific app approved by your state motor vehicle agency or submit the appropriate information and permissions to the agency to create a DDL for you.
Pros & Cons of a Digital Driver License
Not sure if a DDL is right for you? Take a look at some of the pros and cons and how they could affect your life.
|You have acceptable backup if you forget your wallet or driver’s license at home.||Not all retail establishments will trust or accept them at first, meaning you’ll be out of luck if you don’t have your physical card on you.|
|They’re being developed with law enforcement approval in mind.||Critics question how much access to your smartphone law enforcement officers will have; concerns include unreasonable searches and seizures and your privacy rights.|
|They’re overall affordable; Louisiana’s DDL costs about as much as a cup of coffee.||They’re an extra expense; you’ve already paid for the physical card.|
|Eventually, they could become more secure than traditional card driver licenses.||Hackers work around the clock. What happens if your phone or the app company is breached?|
When is Digital Driver License a Reality?
For drivers in Louisiana, the Digital Driver License is already a reality; for drivers in several other states, the option to use a DDL is right around the corner.
The Louisiana Digital Driver’s License
The Digital Driver License is in full effect in Louisiana.
The Louisiana Legislature passed Act 625 in 2016, effectively beginning the process of becoming the first state to allow a digital version of an official driver’s license. The state began implementing the bill in 2018. Resident drivers have been able to use Louisiana’s Legal Digital Driver’s License app, LA Wallet, since June 2018 (iOS/App Store) and July 2018 (Android/Google Play).
Louisiana’s Digital Driver License is always up-to-date, as the app digitally connects with the Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV) for information updates.
Once you purchase and download the app (for a nominal fee), it will walk you through the setup process, from creating an account to adding your driver’s license. Once everything’s set, the Digital Driver License is valid for the life of your regular driver’s license and is accepted by Louisiana law enforcement and most retail establishments that require proof of identity and age.
Several other states are in various stages of implementing a Digital Driver License.
- The Tennessee Department of Safety has been authorized to develop an electronic driver license system.
- Several motor vehicle and other state agencies are actively studying, monitoring, and recording recommendations regarding electronic driver licenses including those agencies in Arizona, Illinois, and Utah.
- Gemalto received a grant in 2016 to set a DDL pilot for Colorado, Idaho, Maryland, and Washington, D.C; Wyoming joined the initiative in 2017.
- Both Colorado and Maryland started a live pilot in 2017, as did the Cheyenne area of Wyoming.
Refer to your state’s motor vehicle agency for updates on whether you can expect a DDL.
While there are both pros and cons to Digital Driver Licenses, you won’t be sorry you have one if you leave your actual license at home.
Several states have started toying with or designing DDL technology. However, for now, only Louisiana offers a fully implemented DDL and official state DDL app for smartphones. Interested drivers in other states can keep up with their state’s DDL process by checking with the state’s motor vehicle agency and website.