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Driver’s license? Insurance proof? There may be an app for that – someday

Red and blue lights flash in your rearview mirror. A police officer asks for your license and proof of insurance.

If a state lawmaker has his way, the next step in this scenario – at least someday – need not include fumbling with your wallet and searching frantically through your glove compartment.

Instead, you whip out your smartphone, tap the screen a few times and hand it over.

Rep. Jeff Dial, R-Chandler, introduced bills that would lay the groundwork for virtual driver’s licenses and allow drivers to display insurance documentation on electronic devices.

While acknowledging that his legislation may be a bit ahead of its time, he said it anticipates a day when paper documents and plastic cards are obsolete.

“It seems like your whole entire life is in your phone,” he said.

HB 2678 would require the Arizona Department of Transportation to develop rules and fees to issue virtual licenses or permits to applicants who request them. HB 2677 would allow drivers to provide pictures of insurance identification cards on wireless devices.

The latter received an endorsement Thursday from the House Transportation Committee. However, Dial wound up holding the driver’s license bill, saying he wants to improve it and try again next year.

Dial said electronic proof of insurance would help conserve paper used to send updated cards to drivers.

Chris Ziance, corporate counsel for Progressive Insurance, said customers are already requesting fully paperless service. He expects to see virtual proof of insurance in the near future.

“As soon as we can get enough states on board, I think we’ll move very quickly and I can see it being 2013,” Ziance said.

For virtual licenses, Dial said he envisions an image stored on a smartphone application that law enforcement can check with the state database.

A spokesman for ADOT, which would be required to develop the protocol for virtual driver’s licenses, said the technology needed is out of reach with current funding.

“We are stretched pretty thin when it comes to resources for exploratory projects,” Tim Tate said.

John Ortolano, president of the Arizona Fraternal Order of Police, said law enforcement would have an especially tough time adjusting to virtual driver’s licenses.

“A lot of police agencies are strapped for cash and they don’t even have computers in their cars,” he said.

Dial said he plans to assemble a task force to study ways to make virtual driver’s licenses a reality.

“It’s still a little ways down the road, maybe five or six years,” he said.

The bills:

HB 2677
• Author: Rep. Jeff Dial, R-Chandler
• Provision: Would allow drivers to display their auto insurance and identification on a wireless device as proof of financial responsibility.
• Status: Passed House Transportation Committee.

HB 2678
• Author: Rep. Jeff Dial, R-Chandler
• Provisions: Would require ADOT to develop procedures for applicants to choose a virtual permit, driver’s license or non-operating identification licenses, as well as establish fees.
• Status: Held by the author.

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