House Bill Aims To Move Texas Toward Digital Driver’s Licenses

State Rep. Terry Canales says digital licenses would enhance safety for law enforcement officers and provide convenience for users.

By Rhonda Fanning & Kristen CabreraNovember 30, 2018 10:17 am,

These days, we do a lot of things on our phones. We can buy coffee, check in for a flight, pay the babysitter, shop for groceries, start our cars or show our insurance card to a law enforcement officer. We could probably do away with physical wallets altogether but for one thing: we still need to show a driver’s license or government-issued photo ID every now and then. But what if we could carry an official ID on our smartphones, too?  

House Bill 181, introduced by Edinburg Democratic State Rep. Terry Canales, would make that possible. Canales says 12 states have passed legislation aimed at implementing digital driver’s licenses, and one state currently uses the technology. He says his bill would create a pilot program for digital licenses. Previous legislation in Texas required the Department of Public Safety, or DPS, to study the feasibility of digital driver’s licenses.

“DPS came back and concluded, yes, not only is it possible, it’s extremely viable,” Canales says.

Canales’ bill would allow DPS to create the digital ID and allow officers to begin using it themselves.

With digital licenses in place, motorists could “beam” their ID to a law enforcement officer at the time of a traffic stop, enhancing safety and convenience during the encounter.

Canales says no state’s digital licenses have yet met federal standards for identification, meaning they can’t be used to pass through airport security, for example.

“Our intention is not to do away with the physical driver’s license. It’s to create a convenient option for license holders,” Canales says.

Canales says his bill specifies that digital licenses would include a lockout feature, so that if a license holder gives their phone to a law enforcement officer, the officer wouldn’t be able to access the rest of their phone’s data. 

Written by Shelly Brisbin.