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West Virginia is driving ahead on licensing

There's still a possibility of success, I suppose, by states opposing the federal Real ID law requiring more documentation to acquire or renew driver's licenses.

But assuming they fail, other states likely will look to West Virginia for having ironed out some of the kinks by starting well in advance of the 2017 deadline.

Our experience last month at the local motor vehicles office was far more time-consuming than past renewal visits. But we didn't face the frustrations earlier applicants have related.

On the other hand, my daughter's ease in getting address verification leads me to doubt the new licenses-identification system truly will insure greater security and identity theft protection.

And while that is troubling, my parents' ease in renewing their license in their late 80s suggests the Mountain State also has made more headway than some others relative to failing older drivers.  

At the time Mom and Dad renewed their Michigan licenses, it was becoming increasingly obvious that they were having problems. They said their car was stolen. Not so. They parked it and couldn't find it. Police verified that for me.

It was all they could do to drive to the corner for banking and groceries.

So I puzzled how they drove to the license renewal office, a trip that required navigating four- and six-lane roadways and making at least one left turn across three oncoming lanes where there was no traffic light.

Then, recently, I read that some states permit mail-in license renewal. I went on the Internet. Sure enough, Michigan still provides that option. I'll never know for sure, but

I suspect my parents did not make a trip to get their licenses. Scary. (And yes, we ended up taking their car keys


Trip aside, Mom and Dad certainly would never have managed obtaining a Real ID license. It requires acceptable documentation of Social Security number, identity (a birth certificate or alternative), proof of residency (two items) and any proof of changes in name on the Social Security card (often necessary for married and divorced women).

For detailed specifics, call 304-558-3505, or toll free 1-800-642-9292 or go to www.transportation.

At first, female applicants ran afoul of the name-change requirement. The website lists as an acceptable document a "marriage certificate." But at the library where I work part time, we heard tales of multiple visits because applicant's certificates were not officially embossed by the issuing county office. Obtaining out-of-state documents was costly and time-consuming.

One frustrated women told me she had to drive to work with an expired license while she waited for mailed documents.

Our marriage license seemed to meet the test.

Not so.

Entitled "License and Certificate of Marriage," it has the embossed gold "Seal of the Circuit Court of Ingham County, Michigan," along with signatures of the county clerk, the deputy county clerk, our two witnesses and the minister.

Ah, but it doesn't prove our marriage was registered after the ceremony in the courthouse.

I wish we had known. My parents' final years were in a home just blocks from that courthouse.

The very pleasant motor vehicles clerk who assisted us disappeared through a door with our marriage license. We waited. And waited. Area residents in line for service also waited. And waited.

We wondered if perhaps someone was calling the courthouse in Michigan.

Apparently not. The clerk informed us the certificate would be accepted if we completed still another form.

At least our birth certificates, mine from Michigan and my husband's from Massachusetts, passed muster.

These new licenses are designed for better national security and protection against identity theft.

My daughter's tale makes me wonder. As she kept her maiden name, she had no need of a marriage license. But she needed a new voter's registration card as a proof of residency.

She went to the Berkley County courthouse, gave her name and got her card.

A bit astonished at the ease, she told me that she asked, "Don't you need some kind of ID proof?"

"Oh, I guess I could have asked to see your driver's license," the deputy clerk said.

Now that's real security.

Contact writer Evadna Bartlett at


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