State

NCDOT lets NC residents get new driver’s license online

tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com

Now you can renew your North Carolina driver’s license online – and when you do, you’ll get a redesigned artifact that supposedly won’t fade or fall apart in your wallet.

The state Division of Motor Vehicles quietly added the license renewal option to its website (ncdot.gov/dmv/online) last week.

State law makes online renewal available every other time your license expires. License renewals are good for eight years for drivers aged 18 to 65, and five years for others. So most North Carolinians will be required to visit a DMV office to get a new driver’s license only once every 16 years – instead of every eight years.

The change should cut down on wait times for others at DMV offices, Gov. Pat McCrory said Wednesday.

“This new service is a major milestone in our continued efforts to improve customer service online and in our DMV offices throughout the state, making it faster, easier and more convenient for people to complete their business and get back to their busy lives,” McCrory said Wednesday in a news release.

The online renewal option comes as DMV is beginning to roll out a redesigned, re-manufactured driver’s license. DMV says it will be more durable than the brittle licenses we’ve carried around since 2005, which are notorious for cracking and fading. And it has new features intended to thwart counterfeiters.

The new license and a similar DMV non-driver identity card have:

▪ Three versions of the driver’s photo: A big one plus a smaller ghost image overlapping a laser-etched, black-and-white picture.

▪ More laser etching, including a perforated “NC” state outline, and images including the state seal and the year of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, 1775.

▪ Designations for organ donors, active military personnel and veterans, and young people who have not turned 21.

DMV is rolling out the new license gradually this summer, spokesman Mike Charbonneau of the state Department of Transportation said.

The new version initially is available only online – for renewal of licenses that are scheduled to expire within the next six months, and for duplicates to replace licenses that have been lost or damaged.

Drivers who request new or renewed licenses from a DMV office in coming weeks still will receive the brittle, old-style model. They’ll start getting the new one by the end of the year, Charbonneau said.

DMV says online renewal is not an option – and an office visit still is required – for new licenses, commercial licenses, drivers with medical or other restrictions other than corrective lenses, and drivers whose licenses are suspended or revoked.

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