Amanda Espinosa, 28, said she didn’t think it would take long to get her driver’s license renewed. She set some time aside from her home day care duties and went to the local tag agency for what she thought would be a quick and painless process.
Espinosa said everything went smoothly until she had her picture taken. After waiting a few moments, the tag agent told Espinosa that a difference in her hair length was stalling the software used to digitally compare her new photograph with her past license photo. When the agent called the state Department of Public Safety to get an override to allow the renewal processing, she was unable to reach anyone. Espinosa said that after waiting for the override for more than 20 minutes, she decided to leave and return the next day. Karen Gentry, director of driver license examining for the department, said the issue was not Espinosa’s hair. Rather, it was probably the result of the software that compares photos as one way to verify the person’s identity. Digital face recognition identifies features on past photos and compares them with new photos as a way to prevent fraud, Gentry said. Other security measures include fingerprints and signatures. The first licenses issued when the state transitioned to digital licenses in late 2003 are now being renewed, and some people are experiencing issues because tag agents and public safety staff are just learning the system. "We’re seeing more of this now, but we are getting better,” Gentry said, adding the department also is changing the verification software.