Planning To Fly A Year From Now? Better Double-Check Your Driver's License | Texas Public Radio

Planning To Fly A Year From Now? Better Double-Check Your Driver's License

Oct 1, 2019
Originally published on October 2, 2019 5:25 pm

Starting Oct. 1, 2020, when the REAL ID law takes effect, if you plan to fly anywhere in the United States, the driver's license you show to security is probably going to need to have a star at the top. Essentially an enhanced driver's license, it will be required at the airport gate, unless you have another accepted form of ID. And officials are worried that one year out, many people don't yet have one.

Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005 to address concerns of the 9/11 Commission, which found that it was too easy for people to obtain driver's licenses, posing a security risk. To get a REAL ID, you typically need to present a birth certificate or green card, a Social Security card and two documents that show your address.

A study done for the U.S. Travel Association shows that 3 out of 4 Americans do not have a REAL ID driver's license (usually indicated by a star at the top), or believe they don't. Erik Hansen, vice president for government relations at U.S. Travel, says that's going to be a problem for would-be airline passengers next year.

"Unfortunately it means they're gonna learn the hard way what the Department of Homeland Security has said," Hansen tells NPR. "If you don't have one of the compliant IDs, either a REAL ID or one of the alternatives, like a passport, you're actually gonna be turned away at the checkpoint and you're not going to be allowed to board your flight."

Hansen says an estimated 78,000 people could possibly be turned away on the first day of the new requirement, at an estimated cost to the economy of $40 million in lost travel-related spending.

A REAL ID-compliant license will also be needed to access most federal buildings and military bases.

As Hansen noted, there are alternative forms of ID that are acceptable, including passports and military IDs. But at a recent hearing, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., who chairs the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said that's not really going to help. "I think we need to heighten awareness about this," Wicker said. "Most people don't have a passport. And most people are not in the military or veterans, so it's going to be that driver's license nine times out of 10."

At that hearing, the acting deputy administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, Patricia Cogswell, said her agency is "doing everything it can to get the word out" about the upcoming deadline, but it's complicated. Some people have valid licenses that are not REAL ID compliant. And some states issue both compliant and noncompliant licenses. "So they may be renewing their license not fully understanding that they are getting a non-REAL ID-compliant license."

REAL ID has been fought by many states that objected to the new law, saying it's a form of national ID or too expensive to implement. And in the past, Congress has extended the deadline to give those states a chance to comply. Hansen, at U.S. Travel, is not expecting the TSA to move the deadline again. But, he says, there are things the government could do.

"I think realistically we just can't solve this by trying to send 182 million Americans to the DMV within the next year," he says. But Congress can take steps to modernize the REAL ID Act. For instance, Hansen says, allowing travelers who are enrolled in the TSA PreCheck program, which was implemented after the REAL ID Act became law, to go through the checkpoint regardless of whether they have the Real ID. Hansen says that would ensure "we're not just racing to catch up with the past."

The TSA has put up signs and is verbally warning travelers of the looming deadline. And the agency advises travelers who aren't sure if their license is compliant to check with their state driver's license agency.

: 10/01/19

In the audio of this story, as in an earlier Web version, we incorrectly say that a study shows that 3 out of 4 Americans have gotten a REAL ID driver's license. In fact, the study shows that about 3 out of 4 believe they have not gotten a REAL ID license. Also, in the Web version, references to the star that will be on driver's licenses have been clarified. Most REAL ID driver's licenses will have such stars. But a handful of states will issue licenses that are REAL ID compliant but do not have stars.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Starting a year from today, if you want to fly in the U.S., you will have to show a Real ID when you go through security screening. Now, Real ID is essentially an enhanced driver's license. Many people do not yet have them. Some states are just now issuing them. And with a year to go before this deadline, federal officials are worried. NPR's Brian Naylor reports.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Congress approved the REAL ID Act in 2005 to address concerns of the 9/11 Commission, which found that it was too easy for people to obtain driver's licenses, which posed a security risk. To get a Real ID, you typically need to show a birth certificate or green card, Social Security card and two documents that show your address. A study done for the U.S. Travel Association shows only 3 out of 4 Americans have gotten a Real ID driver's license.

Erik Hansen, a vice president with U.S. Travel, says that's going to be a problem for would-be airline passengers next year.

ERIK HANSEN: Unfortunately, it means they're going to learn the hard way what - the Department of Homeland Security has said is that if you don't have one of the compliant identifications - either a Real ID or one of the alternatives, like a passport - you're actually going to be turned away at the checkpoint, and you're not going to be allowed to board your flight. So that could have a real impact on people's personal lives and the flow of commerce, but could also have a real impact on the economy, as well, from people staying home and not spending money in travel businesses.

NAYLOR: Hansen says an estimated 78,000 people could possibly be turned away on the first day of the new requirement at an estimated cost to the economy of $40 million in lost travel-related spending. As he noted, there are alternative forms of ID that are acceptable, including passports and military IDs. But at a recent hearing, Republican Senator Roger Wicker says that's not really going to help.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROGER WICKER: I think we need to heighten awareness about this. Most people don't have a passport, and most people are not in the military or veterans. So it's going to be that driver's license, 9 times out of 10.

NAYLOR: At that hearing, acting TSA Deputy Administrator Patricia Cogswell said her agency is doing everything it can to get the word out about the upcoming deadline, but it's complicated.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PATRICIA COGSWELL: There's a combination of people whose licenses are still valid but also individuals who are in states who issue both Real ID and non-Real-ID-compliant licenses today. So they may be renewing their license not fully understanding that they are getting a non-Real-ID-compliant license.

NAYLOR: Real ID has been fought by many states that objected to the new law, saying it's a form of national ID and too expensive to implement. And Congress has extended the deadline to give them a chance to comply in the past.

Hansen at U.S. Travel is not expecting TSA is going to move the deadline again, but he says there are things the government could do.

HANSEN: I think, realistically, we just can't solve this by trying to send 182 million Americans to the DMV within the next year. I think Congress can take steps, as well, to modernize the REAL ID Act, allow travelers who are in precheck to go through the checkpoint regardless of whether they have the Real ID and actually modernize the system so we're not just racing to catch up with the past.

NAYLOR: The TSA has put up signs and is verbally warning travelers of the looming deadline. You can tell if your driver's license is compliant if it has a star in the upper right-hand corner.

Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In the audio, as in an earlier Web version of this report, we incorrectly say that a study shows three out of four Americans have gotten a REAL ID driver’s license. In fact, the study shows that about three out of four believe they have not gotten a REAL ID license. Also, in the Web version, references to the star that will be on driver’s licenses have been clarified. Most REAL ID driver’s licenses will have such stars. But a handful of states will issue licenses that are REAL ID compliant but do not have stars.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.