Ask the Mayor: Why is a Temporary Driving License Still Issued?

April 6, 2015, 11:39 AM HST · Updated April 13, 6:58 AM
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Lahaina DMVL, file photo courtesy County of Maui.

Lahaina DMVL, file photo courtesy County of Maui.

The mayor answers questions from the public in this series.

By Mayor Alan Arakawa

Q: Hawaiʻi was one of the last few states to comply with the federal Transportation Security Administration regarding the validity of the driver’s license, to comply with their identification program for travelers. The question is, if we have complied, why is the temporary license given prior to getting a permanent one rejected as “Not valid for ID purposes” at the TSA screening at Kahului Airport?

A relative traveling to the Mainland had this problem. He had just renewed his driver’s license and only had his temporary one. He used his temporary driver’s license at the screening TSA checkpoint. He was told that his license “was not valid” for entry. He had no other ID with him as his other ID was with his wife’s items, and she had already passed through the checkpoint. There was a discussion, after which he requested that his wife be contacted at their gate and return.

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Upon returning to Maui from the Oakland Airport, he successfully used the same temporary Hawaiʻi driver’s license, which the Kahului TSA officers had said was not considered valid identification. In Oakland, he had no problem.

Can you explain why this is a problem with the Kahului TSA checkpoint but not elsewhere?

Also, the returned license with the year punched out, is considered not valid, even if it is, because the year is punched out. If this is going to be a problem with the TSA, why not return the driver’s license intact, if it is still valid until receiving your new one?

A: This was a very interesting question. According to Steve Taber, local director for TSA operations in Maui County, current security procedures require them to “validate that every person who enters the security checkpoint is authorized to enter. This is done by inspecting a passenger’s boarding pass and government-issued identification.”

To pass, the identification presented must contain the correct security features embedded by each state; these features are not present on the temporary Hawaiʻi driver’s license. For that reason, the temporary Hawaiʻi license cannot be used as a primary form of identification.

“When a passenger has a temporary Hawaiʻi driver’s license, our officers will determine if they have another identification that can be used to establish their identity,” Taber continued. “At the TSA, we strive to be consistent in our operations. I cannot explain why the identification was allowed to be used in Oakland when it wasn’t authorized. I apologize for any frustration this may have caused the passenger.”

As for our Maui County DMV, county staff is tasked with following the state’s licensing procedures, which include punching a hole in a license if it is turned in at the time of renewal and a temporary one is issued.

It’s a good idea for a passenger to carry more than one form of ID with them if they have a temporary license, and the best bet would be to plan ahead to allow time for the new, permanent license to arrive before any scheduled travel. Driver’s licenses may be renewed six months prior to expiration.

Want to Ask the Mayor?

Submit your questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa via email at [email protected], by phone at 270-7855 or by mail to 200 S. High St., 9th Floor, Wailuku, HI 96793. Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the Ask the Mayor column.

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