You Can Drive, But You Can't Hide

A nationwide network that allows Motor Vehicle Departments to exchange violation and suspended license information is being tested by a few states.

by / April 30, 1995
April 1995

Level: State

Function: Motor vehicles

Problem/situation: Disqualified drivers apply for licenses in different states to obtain another license.

Solution: Nationwide network for out-of-state violations and disqualifications.

Jurisdiction: State of Florida, state of Iowa.

Vendors: Advantis

Contact: AAMVAnet: 703/522-1300

By Brian Miller

Features Editor

At one time, truckers with suspended licenses in one state could simply go to another state and get a clean license. That stopped in 1992, with the advent of the Commercial Driver's License Information System (CDLIS), a system whereby state departments of motor vehicles share data over a computer network. While this system helps get bad commercial drivers off the road, it does not apply to the nation's 200 million non-commercial drivers. But that could change soon.

State motor vehicle agencies are beginning to exchange data on moving violations, disqualified drivers, and driving records. Iowa and Florida, for example, have fully implemented the Driver License Reciprocity (DLR) program, and several other states are in pilot.

AAMVAnet, a nonprofit subsidiary of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, is organizing DLR and helping states get involved. The computer network itself is managed by Advantis, a joint venture of IBM and Sears, Roebuck and Co., with a router located in Florida. States are responsible for plugging in with their own equipment and for programming the application software needed.

States can send information on a moving violation to the state which issued the offender's driver's license. If a ticket is unpaid, states can have the driver's home state sanction the driver when he or she attempts to renew a license, and offenses committed in another state would make their way onto the home state's records.

Queries by participating states are also possible. When a person holding an out-of-state license applies for a new one, the applicant's license validity can be queried. Messages are routed through the network and switched in Florida to the proper state. Queries on the system are answered in a few minutes.


There's nothing new about interstate information sharing. All but a few states have joined a series of compacts crafted 20 years ago for exchanging driver and unpaid ticket information. Telephones, faxes and the Postal Service have been the primary method of exchange. DLR would make information sharing faster and more efficient.

"The paper trail gets very difficult to follow," said Barry Goleman, AAMVAnet president. The DLR system gives states the ability to quickly and efficiently pass the information along. "You want to do it as the driver stands in front of you" applying for a new license, Goleman said. That would prevent licenses from being issued to a disqualified driver.

This speed is evident in Iowa, which has used the system since 1992. Iowa has over-the-counter license issuance, enabling applicants to obtain a new driver's license in one visit. "So it is important to do the record check right away, while the clerk processes the application," said Terry Dillinger, driver services director in the Iowa Transportation Department.

When a person holding an out-of-state driver's license applies for an Iowa license, a clerk takes basic information including the applicant's name and the state that issued the applicant's current license. The clerk then goes to the next screen on the computer terminal, and continues taking information and processing the new license.

By the time the application process is finished, the record query has already been sent from the clerk's terminal to a state computer which relays the query through the DLR system. An answer on the query is normally received by the time photos are taken.

A significant benefit of the AAMVAnet system for Iowa is the reduction of paper and errors inherent in manual data entry. "The biggest change I see is a change in records processing," Dillinger said.

Without the network, states must mail driving records to a new home state or use a telephone to inquire about a certain motorist's eligibility. But with the network, none of this is necessary. "This system moves records electronically, and I only have to handle exceptions" on paper, Dillinger said.


Iowa implemented DLR with the help of a systems analyst working with CDLIS, which was already in place. "Modifications were made in the [CDLIS] system, and we added a stand-alone in the central office for queries," Dillinger said.

While Iowa plugged into AAMVAnet with relative ease, other states may have different experiences, Dillinger said. "Some [states] will have to put in more effort than others," he said. "And some will find it difficult depending on what is in place."

Once equipment is procured, the rest of the investment is staff time, Dillinger said. "Staff time will be a big thing for most states."


When more states are plugged into the system, particularly groups of neighboring states, the system's usefulness will increase because adjacent states have more interstate activity. Dillinger said, however, that there is a lot of record query transfer between Florida and Iowa - two states fully implementing DLR - despite the geographic distances. He attributed this to population shifts, which are often seasonal, between Iowa and Florida. But "when neighboring states are on it, it will be more effective," Dillinger said.

"Critical mass will develop on a regionalized basis," said Rob Stershic, account manager with AAMVAnet. "It will be successful if surrounding states have it."


To help more states implement the application, AAMVAnet sends four-person teams to different states to assess their current situation and advise officials on what it would take to plug into AAMVAnet's network. "At the end of three days, we give them a project plan," said Goleman.

AAMVAnet doesn't have much trouble convincing states that the network is a valuable tool, Goleman said, adding that 15 states have signed letters of intent. "They're moving toward this, but it requires somebody to commit resources," Goleman said. "It's not mandatory, so they put it on the back burner."