Education on ‘Real ID’ must become priority

Pennsylvania is gearing up to begin issuing Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses and ID cards to people who want them, beginning in March.

If you’re not familiar with why this state will be making them available, you’re not alone. It’s safe to surmise that most Pennsylvania residents don’t know why the driver’s licenses and state-issued ID cards of today are destined to become relics of the past.

It’s true that Real ID will take perhaps some years to implement fully, but the day will come when no one will want his or her movements or travel restricted as a result of not being in possession of it.

As is so often the case regarding things that are new, some other states are ahead of Pennsylvania, having already put Real ID into effect.

All considered, it seems clear that, if March truly is the timetable for Real ID implementation here, one thing needs to start happening quickly. That is a coordinated effort by the commonwealth to educate the public about what Real ID is about, not only in terms of instruction on how to obtain it, but also to allay any confusion or concerns that might surface about it.

For example, there must be plenty of reminders about what documents will be needed for the Real ID application process, how much time that process will take, and the cost associated with it.

That education process also must emphasize what not having Real ID will mean eventually to people who don’t have it, such as not being permitted to enter certain federal facilities or to board a commercial aircraft.

Therefore, not having a Real ID product might someday result in inconvenience for people who don’t possess or routinely carry with them what also will be deemed acceptable forms of identification, going forward, such as a U.S. passport or passport card.

Real ID was born for the Keystone State and the rest of the nation in response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, and the failed attempt to crash Flight 93 into the U.S. Capitol, White House or some other federal facility in Washington, D.C., on that day.

The federal Real ID Act enacted the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, setting standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards.

After Oct. 1, 2020, certain federal agencies will be prohibited from accepting for official purposes licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet the standards dictated by the law.

Likewise, boarding of commercial aircraft won’t be permitted without Real ID, a passport or other acceptable form of identification.

According to the online news and information service Capitolwire, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is retrofitting six of its current driver’s license centers, including Altoona’s, to provide Real ID over-the-counter service, and also adding five new locations.

PennDOT also reportedly plans to schedule “pop up” centers for people unable to get to a driver’s license center.

A pre-registration/verification opportunity purportedly is getting underway this month.

For now, the best advice for Pennsylvania residents is to ramp up attention when Real ID is mentioned. Meanwhile, most people won’t be perplexed about what to do if the state launches an effective Real ID public relations effort sooner rather than later.

The application process should be easy to understand and easy to navigate, not burdensome.