Bring Lots of ID For a New Digital Driver’s License

.10 vs. .08: What’s the Difference?

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This article by Kathleen Mcginn Spring was prepared for the

February 4, 2004 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

New Driving Laws

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Bring Lots of ID For a New Digital Driver’s License

One Dan Sullivan got his first photo driver’s license in December.

This would not be all that odd in New Jersey – one of the very last

states to offer paper licenses without photos – but for the fact that

Sullivan is director of agency operations of the New Jersey Motor

Vehicle Commission (MVC). Even post-911, Sullivan says his non-photo

license was not a problem. "I have other photo ID," he says, "and I

use my passport for identification when I fly."

Sullivan has traded up not only to a photo license, but to a new

high-tech digital license, and now other drivers can do so too. On

January 20 the Trenton Regional Service Center became the first Motor

Vehicle Commission (MVC) in the state to issue digital driver’s

licenses. The roll-out brings the state, home of so many technology

innovations, up to speed.

"We are the dead last state to go digital," say Sullivan.

The new license has 22 security features, including a digital

photograph, digital signature, holograms of the state seal and a ghost

photo that is visible only under ultraviolet light. The digital photo

also contains ultraviolet text showing the driver’s name and date of


Banners on the front of the new licenses indicate the type of vehicle

the driver operates or his status. Red is for autos, blue for boats,

green is for commercial vehicles, and yellow is for provisional

drivers. A black banner identifies licenses to be used only as

identification. Orange is for temporary driver’s licenses.

The back of the digital license contains a two-dimensional bar code

and a description of class restrictions and endorsements that apply to

the license holder. The bar code has all the information stored on the

front of the license, which allows law enforcement to swipe the card

through a scanner to easily view a driver’s information.

All MVC agencies are expected to start issuing the new licenses by

June. In the meantime, residents whose licenses are about to expire

can still renew through the mail, and can, if they wish, continue to

carry the archaic paper licenses. But doing so is becoming a liability

for anyone who ever travels very far from his neighborhood.

"A driver’s license used to be just a piece of paper to operate a

vehicle," says Sullivan. "But now it’s the number one piece of paper

to identify who you are." Anyone who has checked into a hotel, cashed

a check, or rented a car knows this. The most requested piece of ID in

an increasingly security-conscious country is a photo driver’s


That being the case, the MVC is working hard to make sure that the new

digital licenses they have begun to issue go only to people who really

are who they say they are. Securing one of the new licenses, which

soon will be mandatory for all drivers, requires more documentation

than ever before. The state has instituted a "six point" system.

Individual pieces of identification are given a point value, which

have to add up to six.

But it’s not as simple as that. For example, six one’s do not add up

to six. Neither do three two’s. Every applicant must have at least one

four-point document. This "primary" piece of identification must be an

original document or must carry the required state municipal seal.

United States citizens may present a birth certificate (worht four

points), U.S. Department of State birth certificate, U.S. adoption

papers, U.S. passport (current or expired for less than three years),

valid New Jersey non-driver digital identification card, valid U.S.

military photo identification card, certificate of naturalization, or

certificate of citizenship.

Non-U.S. citizens may present a current alien registration card with

expiration date including verification from INS or BCIS, foreign

passport with INS or BCIS verification and with valid record of

arrival/departure or valid I-551 stamp in passport, refugee travel

document, U.S. re-entry permit, valid I-94 stamped "refugee,"

"parolee," "asylee," or "notice of action" by the INS or BCIS, or

valid I-94 with attached photo stamped "processed for I-551" by INS or


In addition, anyone whose current name is different from the name on

his or her primary document must submit proof supporting the change to

the current name. This would apply, for example, to married women who

have taken their husbands’ names. They are now required to present a

certified marriage certificate. A person with several marriages in her

past might also need divorce decrees for any that included a name


The primary document for most is a birth certificate. Those who have

lost theirs, and who were born in the state, have a number of options

for getting a new one. The document can be obtained over the Internet,

by mail, or in person. The state uses a company called VitalChek

( to expedite document orders – marriage and death,

as well as birth – over the Internet. The company’s express courier

service can deliver a birth certificate in four to six business days

for a charge of $60. The charge for five-to-eight day delivery via

FedEx is $27.75. Anyone who is not in a hurry can obtain a birth

certificate via VitalChek for $4. Orders may be placed by fax

(877-553-2194) and by phone (877-622-7549) as well as over the


The state, through the Department of Health and Senior Services, also

offers a write-in service. (Write to NJ Vital Statistics – Customer

Service Unit, H&A Building, Fifth Floor, Warren and Market streets,

Trenton 08625). Details are available at

The turn around time is six to eight weeks.

A relatively painless option for those who live near Trenton is a trip

to the state’s vital record customer service unit. It is located at

the corner of Warren and Market streets. The state gives the maximum

waiting time as two hours, but it can be considerably less. The fee is

just $4 for the first certificate, and $2 for each additional copy.

New Jersey residents who were born out of state, but within the United

States, can go through VitalChek to get copies of their birth

certificates. Other options include visiting the website of the state

or contacting the offices of the county seat.

Acceptable forms of identification to obtain a birth certificate are a

valid photo driver’s license or photo non-driver’s license, a photo ID

or an alternate form of ID with address, or two alternatate forms of

ID with address. The alternate IDs acceptable include a school ID, a

utility bill, an insurance card, and a green card.

Is it not a tad askew that the requirements to obtain the primary

document needed to secure a driver’s license are so lenient? Not

really, says Sullivan. "That’s why we require the secondary

documents," he explains. His agency has seen a great number of fake

birth certificates, he says. Birth certificate scams are so common

that the MVC receives ongoing alerts from law enforcement agencies

across the country.

Many of these secondary documents, at two or three points each, are

enough to secure a license. These documents include a New Jersey

firearm purchaser card, FAA pilot license, U.S. college photo

identification card with transcript or school records, or civil

marriage certificate or divorce decree.

Many other documents are good for one point, but be aware that only

two one-point documents will be accepted toward the total of six.

One-point documents include an ATM card, high school diploma, a high

school certificate (written test waiver), current New Jersey

non-digital driver’s license, New Jersey public assistance card with

photo, current health insurance card, bank statement (cannot be

submitted in conjunction with an ATM card), property tax bill issued

by a New Jersey municipality, and state professional license.

In addition to documents adding up to six points, applicants need to

present either a Social Security card or need to be able to reel off

the number. Sullivan says the MVC is newly able to cross-check Social

Security numbers.

Beyond basic security logic, a reason that the state is tightening

requirements is that, in the past, employees have made cash on the

side by selling driver’s licenses. Sullivan says the MVC is aware of

this danger and has implemented numerous layers of security to prevent

further occurrences.

Workers at MVC agencies are now state employees. They are more

invested in their jobs, says Sullivan, because they have state

benefits, are enrolled in state pension plans, and "have a future."

What was in many cases a dead-end job has expanded. MVC employees have

gained the possibility of moving into – and up through – other state


Should that not be incentive enough, the MVC has hired a security

chief, staffed his office, and installed security cameras. It’s a

brave new world at MVC.

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.10 vs. .08: What’s the Difference?

On January 20 Governor McGreevey put Garden State drivers on notice

that they had better watch how much they drink before they put key to

ignition. He signed legislation lowering the blood alcohol content

(BAC) at which a person is considered to be guilty of drunk driving

from 0.10 to 0.08. Called "Florence’s Law," the new standard is named

after the late Florence Nass, a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)

activist whose son was killed by a drunk driver.

The 0.08 threshold is already the standard in most states.

MADD is the high-profile, national anti-drunk driving organization

that includes not only mothers against drunk driving, but also a fair

number of fathers, sons, daughters, uncles, and grandparents. It gave

New Jersey a grade of D- in its latest report card for its BAC

testing, data, and records, a D for its administrative measures and

criminal sanctions, and a C+ for its laws against drunk driving.

In 2002, there were 747 traffic fatalities in New Jersey, and 297 of

them were determined to be alcohol related. After several years of

decline, drunken driving deaths are again on the rise in New Jersey.

An additional impetus to pass the 0.08 legislation, which spent 10

years working its way through to law, was the fact that the federal

government is withholding transportation funds from states that do not

adopt this standard. By signing Florence’s Law, Governor McGreevey

brought $7.2 million in withheld federal highway construction aid into

the state.

In December, 2000, when a move to a lower BAC standard appeared

imminent, the West Windsor Plainsboro News, curious to see just how

inebriated a person would become as BAC rose, assigned a reporter to

find out.

Freelance writer Diana Wolf and a designated driver arrived at the

West Windsor police station with a bottle of Gewurztraminer wine (12.5

percent alcohol). There she simultaneously got intoxicated and

underwent exams to determine her level of intoxification.

For the West Windsor test, the reporter was an average-sized woman;

her drink the equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle of beer or a mixed drink

with a one-ounce shot of hard liquor.

Wolf started drinking at 6:45 p.m. on an empty stomach while she

waited for her designated driver to arrive at her apartment. Within

fifteen minutes she reported feeling the effects. She nibbled pretzels

while she finished her second glass, chugging the last of it as her

driver arrived.

On the trip to the police station, where her test would get underway

in earnest, she felt dizzy and her fingers were numb. Sitting in the

driver’s seat, she felt that her reaction time was slow. "I feel I

would have hit the brakes a little late," she wrote. "I think I could

drive home if I needed. I’m not out of control, but I am not totally

in control."

Arriving at the police station at 7:45 p.m., she was put through a

field test that officers make DWI suspects perform. She walked nine

steps forward, heel to toe, counting each step out loud. She pivoted

and repeated the steps, as Patrol Officer Marylouise Dranchak watched

for any unbalance or arm waving. Next, she stood on one foot, lifting

the other in front of her to a height of six inches off the ground.

She stared at the foot and counted to 30. If her foot had hit the

ground twice, she would have failed. But she held was able to keep her

foot aloft, and passed both tests.

She did, however, show signs of intoxification on the third test,

which is called the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus or HGN. It tests the

driver’s ability to follow a lighted source from left to right. (The

HGN is good at detecting heavy drinkers who may be able to function

normally otherwise.)

After two drinks, had she been stopped by Dranchak, Wolf would have

been allowed to proceed.

At 8:23 p.m. Wolf poured her third glass of wine and ate some more

pretzels. She felt "relaxed and chatty." As she drank, Dranchak told

her that the safest drink to have on a two-drink night is beer, which

has around 5 percent alcohol. Wine averages 12 percent, and a serving

of hard liquor contains 40 percent. Having food in the stomach will

cause the blood level to rise more slowly.

The third drink gone, Wolf took the field tests again – and failed.

She lost her balance and slurred her words. Her blood alcohol level

was 0.09, under the legal limit until just two weeks ago, when the new

standard beccame law.

Wolf told Dranchak that she thought she was okay to drive. The police

officer replied that casual drinkers experiencing her level of

intoxication are "sometimes the most dangerous drivers on the road."

At 9:15 p.m. Wolf finished her fourth glass of wine. She had felt like

dancing after her first glass, but no more. "The room is not steady,"

she reported. "I’m slurring my words more than before." At 9:29 p.m.

she tried the field tests again, and was not even able to walk up

three steps. Her last breathalyzer test, at 9:40 p.m., registered

0.16. Dranchak predicted she would not be sober for 11 hours.

According to the Narcotic Educational Foundation of America, the speed

of alcohol consumption affects the rate at which one becomes drunk.

Dranchak told Wolf that her first three glasses would likely have put

her at 0.10 had they been consumed within an hour. Unlike foods,

alcohol does not have to be slowly digested. It is immediately

absorbed into the blood, which rapidly carries it to the brain. The

"burn off rate" is approximately 0.015 to 0.020 percent blood alcohol

per hour, which translates into about 2/3 of one drink.

At 0.02 BAC there is a sense of warmth and well-being. At 0.04 most

people feel relaxed, energetic, and happy. Time seems to pass quickly.

Skin may flush and motor skills may be slightly impaired. At 0.05

individuals may begin to experience lightheadedness, giddiness,

lowered inhibitions, and impaired judgment. Coordination may be

slightly altered.

At 0.08 muscle coordination is definitely impaired, and reaction time

decreased. Driving ability is suspect. At 0.10 there is clear

deterioration of coordination and reaction time. Individuals may

stagger and speech may become fuzzy. At 0.15 all individuals

experience a definite impairment of balance and movement. Double that,

and the drinker is on the way to unconsciousness.

New Jersey’s new law seeks to cut drinkers off way this side of

unconsciousness. Those who break the law face stiff penalties, which

become more harsh as their BAC rises. First offenders with a BAC of

0.08 or higher but less than 0.10 will receive a fine of $250 to $400

and up to a three month license suspension. Those with a BAC of 0.10

or higher will receive a fine of $300 to $500 and a license suspension

of at least seven months. The same graduated penalties apply to people

who let intoxicated persons get behind the wheel.

Penalties go up sharply for repeat offenders, and became stiffer still

on the same day that the 0.08 standard became law: Michael’s Law

requires a person who commits a third offense to serve a 180-day term

in jail.

And if you get arrested and refuse the breathalyzer test, you are

guilty of violating the law that requires you to take the test, and

carries with it penalties identical to the drunk driving law. And you

could still be convicted of drunk driving based on the field tests.

And the penalties are consecutive.

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