Tag Archives: drivers license

An Alzheimer’s patient and his driver’s license

The in basket: I have been providing transportation for a friend who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a year or so ago and was told by his doctor not to drive anymore. He’s not obviously physically impaired by the disease so far and said he misses driving.

I asked the state Department of Licensing if voiding of a person’s driver’s license is automatic with such a diagnosis and if doctors face sanctions if they don’t report it.

The out basket: Brad Benfield, DOL spokesman, says, “In our state, we do not have any mandatory reporting laws for physicians, but it is very common for physicians to report medial conditions that would affect an individual’s ability to operate a vehicle safely (personal safety and public safety).

“We have a form available that physicians (and law enforcement officers) commonly use to report issues. Family members can also use this form. You can see it here:


“Our authority to take action on these is found in RCW 46.20.031:

which says, in part: “The department shall not issue a driver’s license to a person who has previously been adjudged to be incompetent due to a mental disability or disease.”

Anyone reporting such incompetence on that form, labeled How to Report an Unsafe Driver, should know that the report isn’t confidential, can be reported to the subject and his lawyer, and requires first-hand knowledge of the subject’s condition.

Actually. my friend’s license may still be valid and hasn’t been taken away. But he’s following doctor’s orders, and long ago sold his car. He said he witnessed an incident in which an elderly man suffering from dementia had car trouble on the steep hill on Sidney Road coming out of downtown Port Orchard, and doesn’t want to be in his shoes.

Should driver’s licenses show blood types?

The in basket: Joyce Jurgich of Tiger Lake in Mason County, who winters in the Cabo San Lucas area in Mexico, said that when she and her late husband got their Mexican driver’s licenses, they were required to have their blood types listed on them.
They went to a free clinic for a blood draw, and received certificates showing their blood types. They took the certificates to the issuing office and the blood types were included on their respective licenses. Allergies also are listed on the license, she said, though she doesn’t recall the process for that.
Listing blood types on drivers licenses seems like a good idea in a roadside emergency with loss of a lot of blood, she said, and wondered why it isn’t done here.
I have a faint recollection that maybe in my distant past I DID have my blood type on my driver’s license, but it’s as likely I printed it myself on an ID card of my own creation that I carried in my wallet.
The out basket: Brad Benfield of the state Department of Licensing says, “I consulted with my most reliable DOL historians and none of us can remember ever recording blood types on driver licenses.
“It’s an idea that has been advanced at various times in the past, but it never went very far. Starting to do so would present some challenges – primarily how we would get that type of information and the reliability of the source. In the end, I don’t think medical professionals would rely on such a system and would continue to test blood prior to transfusions.”

Big change coming in getting your drivers license

The in basket: Matt McMillen, co-owner of 911 Driving School in Port Orchard, asked me in an e-mail, “Are you aware that starting Dec. 1, the Department of Licensing is allowing local driving schools to administer the written and driving tests in order to obtain a drivers license?

“At 911 Driving School, we have been doing the written test since 2010, but the driving test is a huge jump!  I think this would be an informative article for your readers. There may be a lot of confusion and questions when the transition happens.”

The out basket: No, I was not aware of that. I hadn’t gotten even a whiff of this happening. So I asked the state DOL about it.

Christine Anthony of DOL replied that this has been going on in King County since Oct. 1, pursuant to a new state law.

“This is a big change in the way we do business and it will remove one of the most time-consuming transactions people have to do in our offices,” said DOL Director Alan Haight in a September news release I hadn’t seen. “It also will reduce wait times for other customers who must come into an office.”

They decided to start in King County, where the waits have been the longest, and set a Dec. 1 date for going statewide, including here. They stopped the written and driving portions of the exams in two King County offices in October.

Christine says driving schools have to apply to do the tests, and so far 911 is the only Kitsap school to do so. State-certified public school driver training programs and motorcycle schools also are eligible.

You don’t have to be a student of the driving school to take the tests, Christine said

All schools qualified by Dec. 1 will be listed by then on the DOL Web site.

Written and driving testing will continue in the DOL offices here as well as at the driving schools for the time being. But the objective is clearly to free up DOL employees for other duties the offices perform and reduce wait times for those services.

No DOL employees are losing their jobs due to the new program, she said.

911 Driving School has been doing the written tests since 2010 under a pilot program that preceded passage of the law that expanded it to the driving skills portion of the test.

In determining what existing DOL offices will continue giving the tests, Christine said, “we are looking at several factors including testing demand, the number of licensed driver training schools in the vicinity, and how far customers would have to travel to take a test. The legislation allows us to continue testing in one licensing service office in each of our eight districts, so we will work toward that direction.”

It will cost more to take the tests at a driving school, but DOL thinks the added convenience will be worth it.

“The DOL fees will be still be charged,” Christine said, “as required by state law.  We believe the increased access to a variety of testing times and locations will be of value to our customers. We have customers now who wait weeks and sometimes months to get into a licensing service office for a drive test.

“Drive training schools can offer tests anytime, not just the hours kept by one of our offices. Also, for customers who are enrolled in a traffic safety education course, many schools roll the test cost into the package price.”

Matt, a State Patrol officer whose partner, Joi Haner, also is an officer with the State Patrol, says 911 will charge $15 for the written test and $35 for the driving test in the applicant’s car. Add $20 to use one of their cars. For $80, you can get a 30-minute warm-up drive before taking the driving test.

Applicants will still have to pay DOL the $35 application fee and, when approved for a license, $45 for the five years the license will be good for.

Teenage drivers are limited for first year after getting a license

The in basket: When I was just out of high school, I was driving my dad’s old Chevy station wagon with three friends with me, leaving a round of golf at what was then Clover Valley Golf Course in South Kitsap.

As we approached Sedgwick Road on Long Lake Road, a car that had stopped at the stop sign ahead of us was beginning to pull onto Sedgwick.

“Don’t stop!” one of my passengers said. “If he can make it, you can make it.”

Not that sound of an argument, of course, as we couldn’t see what was coming on Sedgwick on either said of the intersection. But I did what he suggested. Luckily, no cross-traffic was close to us and I made it across.

I think of that reckless decision from time to time, as I did after reading a report in a the May 13 Sunday Kitsap Sun about how much more likely a teenager is to die in a traffic accident if there area other teens and no adult in the car. The chances more that double.

My stupidity that day a half century ago was a textbook demonstration of that hazard.

The story says every state now has limitations on what a drivers license allows a teenager to do. I looked up this state’s rule, then asked State Trooper Russ Winger, spokesman for the local WSP detachment, whether violating it is a primary or secondary infraction, and how tough it is to enforce it.

The out basket: The law says a licensed driver under age 18 can’t drive with passengers under the age of 20 for the first six months after getting the license, unless the passengers are members of the driver’s  immediate family.

For the next six months, the teen can’t carry more than three passengers who are under 20 years old and aren’t members of his or her immediate family.

Also, for the first 12 months, the teen can’t drive between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. unless a licensed driver age 25 or old is in the car.

And an under-18 driver also cannot use a cell phone while at the wheel, even with a hands-free device.

Trooper Winger said violating those rules is a secondary offense, meaning the driver has to be stopped for some primary offense, such as speeding, before the licensing limitations can support a citation.

Since holding a cell phone to one’s ear or texting is an infraction for all ages, that would be such a primary offense.

“I don’t think it is a frequent violation we enforce,” he said of the license limitations, “but there is some.

“When an officer stops a driver who has the intermediate restriction (the officer) can ask questions but a driver could lie and say the passenger is a family member. Passengers can also lie. I don’t know how much of that goes on.  We are limited in what we can ask of a passenger that has not committed a violation.

“The night time restriction,” he said, “is easy to enforce because of the time of day and/or the passenger would have to prove they are licensed and the (correct) age because they are in effect ‘allowing’ the provisional  to drive with them.

“The bottom line,” Russ said, “is that you must first have a valid reason to stop and contact the driver.”

Lost and stolen drivers licenses and ID theft

The in basket: Jerry Darnall of Kingston writes to say he ran into a problem when he tried to renew his driver’s license online and the new one never reached him.

He paid by credit card and was told the new license would arrive by mail in about two weeks, he said. “(It) never showed.”

The Department of Licensing said it was mailed and suggested he check with the post office.

“Lame suggestion since the post office cannot trace mail unless certified\registered, which the Department of Licensing does NOT offer, even for an extra fee,” Jerry wrote.

So he asked about canceling his drivers license number and getting a new one but was told DOL won’t do that.

“(It) seems the ‘system,’ while not actually supporting ID theft, doesn’t do anything to prevent it either,” he said. “Now for the next four years, I will need to worry about someone with a copy of my valid driver license.”

Jerry said DOL should offer, for a nominal fee, to send mailed licenses by registered\certified mail, “which would require a signature at the post office for those of us that get rural mail delivery.”

Further, he said, “there has to be a way to ‘invalidate’ a drivers license. Washington makes up the drivers license numbers from the person’s name with alphanumeric characters at the end. The system should allow for a ‘re-numbering’ of those characters and the original lost or stolen license to be invalidated.”

The out basket: Brad Benfield of the state Department of Licensing replies, “Many people in our state are rightfully concerned about identity theft and fraud.

“However, what we have learned is that a lost or stolen driver license by itself is not a document that is particularly valuable for someone wanting to commit ID fraud. Criminals engaged in that type of activity typically are after Social Security numbers, which are the required element to secure credit, or actual credit card numbers themselves. Lost or stolen driver licenses and ID cards are not typically used as a source document for identity theft.

“Because a lost or stolen driver license already has a photo on it that doesn’t match the person who finds or steals it, its value is very limited,” Brad said.

“Over the past 11 years, we’ve really made a lot of changes to the document itself that makes it very secure and difficult to modify. In fraud cases where a driver license is part of the fraud, we typically see either a counterfeit license being used or a license issued by us based on fraudulent documents provided by the criminal.

“A person’s driver license number isn’t random. The entire number is created using a mathematical formula. We don’t publicize the formula, but it’s not exactly a secret. If you are curious, you can find it here:  http://www.highprogrammer.com/alan/numbers/dl_us_wa.html

“We do have policies that prevent individuals from changing their drivers license number whenever they want,” he continued. “This number is the key link to a person’s driving record in our database and, by extension, other driver-related systems at the federal level.

“If drivers were allowed to change their driver license numbers at will, it could create problems for federal commercial driver safety programs and make it easier for people to move from state to state and obtain driver licenses they may not be entitled to get, due to a suspension based on their driving record here in our state.

“In those rare cases where driver license fraud involves the use of another person’s driver license number, we will work with the victim to straighten out their record and take the steps necessary to stop the fraud. This may include issuing a new driver license number.

“Your reader’s suggestion to offer an option to have documents sent via certified mail for an additional fee would have to be authorized by the state Legislature.”


Won’t online driver’s license renewal outdate the photos?

The in basket: Deann Irish thinks its an odd paradox that the state insists that we replace our car license plates every seven years so that the reflectivity of the plates is good and police can see them at night, while the state has introduced online renewal of one’s driver’s license that reuses one’s old license photo on the new license.

Isn’t a current photo of a person stopped by the police a lot more important than a reflective plate, she asked.

The out basket: Brad Benfield of the Department of Licensing says the department and state patrol are aware of that problem, and have put limitations on online renewal to address it. Not everyone is allowed to do it, and no one can do it every time his or her license expires.

“Maintaining a good photo of our licensees was certainly a discussion point when we developed our online renewal process,” he said. They consulted Washington State Patrol and other law enforcement agencies before introducing online renewal,

 “The first requirement that addresses this is not allowing online renewals to occur two times in a row. If you take advantage of online renewal, you will have to come in to a DOL office to renew the next time your license expires, generally in five years. You can renew online only once between trips to our office for a new picture.

 Further, he said, “An individual’s facial appearance changes most when that individual is young and when they begin to show the physical signs of aging. To address this, we don’t allow individuals who are younger than 25 or older than 65 to use this system. We determined that inside of this range, having a picture updated every 10 years is satisfactory.”  

I also asked Brad about online renewal of the new enhanced driver’s licenses and ID cards and whether there is any weakening in the state’s resolve to force replacement of license plates every seven years. 

He said the EDLs must be renewed in person every time. As for continued plate replacement, he said, “There have been legislative proposals in recent years to repeal it, but they haven’t passed.”

Drivers licenses of the dead

The in basket: Peggy Warren of Manchester said the other day that she had never notified the state of her mother’s recent passing so that her drivers license no longer was in effect. She wondered if that is something the state expects the family of a deceased person to do.
The out basket: Brad Benfield of the Department of Licensing says, “Family members are not required to notify DOL of the death of a loved one.
“We do sometimes receive these types of notifications about driver
licenses and we can take action if the family provides a copy of the
death certificate. This most commonly occurs when a family member
receives correspondence from DOL addressed to the deceased family
“Our driver license records are most often updated based on
reports of deaths received by the Department of Health. When we receive these reports, the appropriate records are marked and then purged.”