KOOTENAI COUNTY, Idaho — Idaho authorities have a simple message for anyone considering waiting until next fall to upgrade their drivers licenses to comply with federal guidelines.
"Get it done now and don't wait until the last minute," said Lt. Ryan Higgins with the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office.
Higgins, along with spokespeople for the Idaho Transportation Department and the Transportation Security Administration, spoke with members of the media on Monday to stress the importance of Idaho drivers obtaining a Star Card before the federally-mandated deadline of October 2020.
Idaho's Star Card is the state's response to the federal REAL ID Act. Passed in 2005, the act was recommended by a commission formed in the wake of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. The act sets security standards for states to issue licenses and forms of identification.
Under the act, federally approved IDs are required to board planes and enter federal facilities and military bases.
Other forms of identification like passports and military IDs will still work under the act, but standard drivers licenses will no longer be accepted at airport security checkpoints.
Idaho's Star Card looks practically identical to existing drivers licenses, but contains a small star logo encased in a circle in the upper right hand corner.
"It has been a long term process," said TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers of the act. "We've given a lot of time for states to come into compliance. And now we're in the stage where residents need to come forward and take the steps to get that REAL ID."
Dankers added that TSA has been working with individual states to make sure changes to IDs will be in compliance.
So far, just under 15% of all Idaho drivers have a Star Card, according to ITD. That compares to 27% nationwide.
"We're pleased where we are, but we have a ways to go," said ITD spokeswoman Jennifer Gonzalez of the Gem State's Star Card rate. Gonzalez noted, however, that between August and September, 20,000 drivers upgraded to Star Cards.
In Kootenai County, where drivers license offices have previously been prone to long wait times, the Sheriff's Office urged drivers to obtain Star Cards sooner rather than later.
"The lines will just get longer," said Higgins of an anticipated rush at licensing offices ahead of the October 2020 deadline. "We're busy, we're filled to the gills."
Kootenai County's growing population could be one reason for increased wait times. In addition to that, ITD has previously said that Kootenai County has fewer licensing office staff compared to counties of a similar size.
Higgins encouraged drivers to head to the county's website to schedule appointments at either the Post Falls or Coeur d'Alene licensing offices.
"It would be super unfortunate for you to be at the airport and get turned away because you didn't take a little bit of time out of your day and get this card," Higgins said.
Gonzalez encouraged drivers to head to the state's Star Card website, itd.idaho.gov/starcard/, to determine what documents are needed to upgrade a drivers license before making an in-person visit to a licensing office. Required documents include a non-laminated Social Security Card, a certified birth certificate, and proof of Idaho residency. Other acceptable documents are listed on the state's website.
"We know it's frustrating. Nobody wants to have to go more than once to take care of this process. So please, give yourself the time, plan ahead," said Gonzalez.