Legislature May Mandate Photo Driver's Licenses

02/08/02 12:00AM By Bob Kinzel



(Host) Legislation that would mandate photo driver's licenses in Vermont is gaining momentum at the Statehouse.

VPR's Bob Kinzel reports.


(Kinzel) Vermont's distinction of being the only state in the country that does not require a photograph on all driver's licenses may be coming to an end. The Dean administration is strongly backing this proposal, however the plan has run into some opposition in the Senate Transportation Committee.

The Department of Motor Vehicles is currently equipped to issue photo licenses in about ten locations throughout the state. Committee chairman Dick Mazza says he's concerned that some people in rural parts of Vermont may have to travel long distances to get a photo ID. But Mazza says if this issue can be worked out, it's likely that his panel will back the plan.

In addition, the legislation calls for an eye exam for all drivers when they come in every four years to have a new picture taken:

(Mazza) "I asked the committee specifically if they want to continue discussion on this bill. The interest is there, but the concerns are still there about the convenience of doing it. And I sense that the committee is leaning toward - if we're going to have the mandatory┬┐photo ID, that they want to incorporate the eye exam also."

(Kinzel) Mazza says the mandatory eye exams are a good way to help keep Vermont roads as safe as possible:

(Mazza) "I don't think anybody is out there deliberately driving with an eye problem that they don't want to correct. But I think sometimes somebody does check it, and maybe they'll go through 20 years of never having their eyesight checked. But this would give the ability to, whether it's four years to check that and correct it and I think everybody would like that."

(Kinzel) Motor Vehicles Commissioner Bonnie Rutledge says roughly 20% of all drivers in Vermont currently do not have a photo ID. This figure is higher in the more rural regions of the state. If the bill passes, Rutledge says her department will draft a plan that recognizes the specific needs of these regions:

(Rutledge) "The Department is doing some work on that. One of the reasons we've asked for an implementation date of January 2003 is to give the Department an opportunity to work out what those access issues are and to identify the areas where we need to get to more and make it more accessible for people."

(Kinzel) The committee is expected to vote on this bill in the next few weeks.

For Vermont Public Radio I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.
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