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New design for licenses announced

CONYERS - Georgia drivers will begin to see a new look to their driver's licenses later this year following an announcement Thursday by the Georgia Department of Driver Services of a major overhaul of the state-issued driver and identification cards.

New card distribution will begin at license centers in Conyers, Covington and Locust Grove in September before the new system is installed at all centers across the state. DDS spokeswoman Susan Sports said all Georgia residents will begin getting the new cards by November when they renew their licenses and identification cards.

All existing cards will remain valid until expiration, Sports said.

Security and counterfeiting were the major reasons given for the new card design. The license will remain roughly the size of a credit card and is designed to be more difficult to counterfeit, alter or replicate.

The new cards will have additional security features, including ghost photos, a laser-engraved signature over the primary photo to minimize alterations and a tamper resistant coating placed over the card.

The cards will feature a machine-readable barcode that can be used by banks, retailers and other businesses to verify the information printed on the front.

Fees will not increase, and customers will continue to choose between a five-year or 10-year license or ID, Sports said.

The announcement came from Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue's office and followed the announcement last week of changes to be made on the "Under 21" drivers license and identification cards that are hoped will help stem underage drinking. The cards issued to those "Under 21" will have a similar design to those for over 21 residents but will be printed in a vertical format to aid retailers and law enforcement in identifying minors. Currently, only a red frame and the words "Under 21" differentiate it from the other cards issued.

"With the new system, there is absolutely going to be no question because it's going to be oriented vertically while those 21 years of age and older will have the same orientation as we have now," said Sports. She added the vertical design has been used with good results in other states.

Drivers will be issued an interim driver's license or identification card upon renewal which will be valid for up to 45 days. The permanent laminated license is mailed from the central production print facility to the applicant's mailing address on file with DDS, Sports said.