Your physical driver’s license may someday become a quaint symbol of a bygone era.
A slew of cities will now accept a Colorado Digital ID during traffic stops, including Brighton, Broomfield, Cherry Hills Village, Colorado Springs, Denver, Durango, Lakewood, Loveland, Morrison Parker, Thornton, Vail, and Windsor. More and more businesses are also adopting the technology.
A major goal of the digital ID program is to reduce how much time officers spend on the side of the road during a traffic stop. They are vulnerable to being hit by passing cars.
The Colorado State Patrol was an early adopter. Trooper and spokesman Josh Lewis said stops are, on average, 10 percent shorter when someone uses a digital license.
“It can get the process going much faster because it's all waiting for me,” Lewis says.
How a digital ID works
A smartphone is required, and once the app is downloaded, it works without cellular service, said Russell Castagnaro, the state’s Digital Transformation Director.
Castagnaro said that 150,000 people have signed up for a digital ID so far and 78,000 have used it in the last year.
“Only your phone has access to your driver's license data. It's not like it’s stored in a centralized third party database, anything like that,” Castagnaro said. Fishing licenses can also be digitized.
Until digital licenses are universally accepted, state officials encourage people to carry their physical IDs with them.
No, you do not need to hand your phone to an officer
Privacy concerns abound for Denise Maes, public policy director for the ACLU of Colorado.
“There might be the natural inclination to pass the phone [to an officer] as you would your driver’s license. You don’t have to do that, but I don’t think there’s education on that,” she says. “You’ve got to be mindful of what’s on the phone.”
Lewis emphasized that he and his fellow troopers are trained never to handle people’s phones.
“I’m going to go out on a limb and say all the other agencies that are now utilizing this [digital ID] received similar or the same training,” Lewis said.
He added that the pandemic has only reinforced the need for contactless traffic stops, joking that “We all know that phones are one of the dirtiest things that exist on the planet right now.”