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Washington State Offers Enhanced Driver's License

Updated on March 10, 2008

Washington State first issued the Enhanced Driver License and ID Card (EDL/ID) on January 22, 2008. This new ID is completely voluntary, but if you choose to get it, the ELD/ID will securely carry both your identity and citizenship information. Washington has worked with British Columbia to create this new technology, making it possible for carriers of this ID to use it as an alternative to a passport for re-entering the United States at land and sea border crossings.

Washington State is using RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) technology to store information in the enhanced IDs. This allows Customs agents to read the cards remotely before the traveler even gets to the inspector’s booth.

Border Crossing
Border Crossing

The enhanced licenses and ID cards use RFID technology by means of computer chips and antennae to store and transmit data through radio waves. RFID technology makes it a lot more convenient for both travelers and agents when it comes to border crossing and proving accurate information. However, this same technology that makes it convenient also puts card carriers at risk.

RFID technology is similar to bar codes with how it stores information by using a unique identifying number. However, RFID tags can be read silently from a distance while bar codes cannot. This means that those carrying the new enhanced cards can have their information read remotely without knowing it is happening.

Some people are concerned that their civil liberties will be at risk by using the enhanced IDs, which are currently optional and not mandatory for Washington residents. Non-enhanced IDs can only be read if the person carrying it presents it to the reader, but the enhanced cards allow anyone with the capability to read it remotely. The enhanced IDs don’t actually have a ton of identifying information embedded inside of it, but actually have a code that is used to pull up information from the DOL (Department of Licensing) database.

The concern lies around the fact that these codes use unique, identifying numbers, which could be used for tracking people. U.S. passports also use RFID technology, but are embedded with security that disables them from being read unless the passport cover is opened.

As long as the enhanced licenses remain optional, it all comes down to choice: people can choose between convenience and security.


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    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      Interesting to learn about the use of technology for the enhanced driver's licenses--thanks!

    • profile image

      John Slyfield 7 years ago

      The enhanced id / drivers license is valid for all land and sea travel in North America. Of course, all US Citizens are prohibited from visiting certain countries, including Cuba. But yes, it will get you through a land crossing at the Mexican border. Because none of the southern states have the Enhanced ID/ DL, you might want to print a flier. Going to canada, they are probably used to it.

    • K J Page profile image

      K J Page 7 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      The enhanced dl is good between BC and Wash to the best of my knowledge - the passport card which is obtained through the passport office can be used for all land and sea based crossing in Mexico, the Carribean and Canada. Air flight in to all countries requires the full passport.

    • countrywomen profile image

      countrywomen 9 years ago from Washington, USA

      Stacie- Well first time when credit cards arrived on the scene people may have considered it as "plastic" money but now it is more the norm than actual currency. Similarly I think having bulky passport with so many stampings/visas would be a thing of past once all the government databases are integrated along with bioinformatics. Thumbs up for a great hub about a possible futuristic trend.

    • Stacie Naczelnik profile image

      Stacie Naczelnik 9 years ago from Seattle

      This hub was first written in early 2008.

      I'm not sure if it works with other countries other than Canada--might want to research that.

    • profile image

      Tracy 9 years ago

      when was this written?

    • profile image

      doug 9 years ago

      can i go into mex.with a wash. st. lic.?

    • ahmu profile image

      ahmu 10 years ago

      nice topic u write