New Kentucky 'standard' driver's license

New Kentucky 'standard' driver's license 

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky plans to roll out major changes to driver’s licenses in two counties next month, then move on to the rest of the state.

That approach will let transportation officials “keep an eye on” the new system of approving licenses, Matt Henderson, Kentucky’s vehicle regulation commissioner, told a legislative panel on Monday.

The pilot program in Franklin and Woodford counties is meant to “see if there’s any bugs in the process that we can fix before we hit larger urban communities,” he said in an interview after the meeting.

Henderson appeared before the House Budget Review Subcommittee on Transportation weeks ahead of ushering in a new era of driver’s credentials and other documents. In all, he said, by June all counties should be offering them.

And as the changeover nears, Henderson promised a media blitz of billboards, radio spots and social media postings aimed at letting people know about the new credentials. People will still apply at their local circuit county clerk’s office, but a state contractor will produce the documents in a single location.

Rep. Sal Santoro, the subcommittee’s chair, urged state officials to stay in contact with the circuit clerks. Those clerks will be the frontline of a system that will require Kentuckians to bring multiple proofs of ID with them – rather than simply turning in their current license, taking a photo and leaving.

“We must answer these clerks, please,”  … When you roll this thing out, I’m just saying, beware. Because they’re going to be calling. I know there’s going to be a lot of little hang-ups.”

Kentucky is overhauling its driver’s licenses to comply with a U.S. law meant to make documents more secure. Congress passed the Real ID Act of 2005 as a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission.

The rollout comes a year ahead of the federal government’s October 2020 deadline for the new documents; at that time, Kentucky’s current IDs will no longer be recognized at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport or other airports.

Kentuckians will choose between two different types of driver's licenses.

A “voluntary travel ID” is similar to the state’s current driver’s license, letting its holder drive, make age-limited purchases, board domestic flights and enter military posts.

A "standard driver's license" would let its holder drive, make purchases and enter federal buildings for basic services, but starting in fall 2020 won’t be accepted for air travel within the U.S. Instead, a passport or other federal ID would be needed.

The credentials look alike, although the travel ID has a clear star on the front. The standard ID says "NOT FOR REAL ID PURPOSES" on its front.

State officials have defended the two-tiered system, saying it will let residents choose the credential that works best for them, while some lawmakers and critics have raised concerns  that the approach could cause confusion. 

The changes also will affect how Kentuckians get their credentials.

Drivers renewing their licenses in past years simply had to turn in their expiring document and get a new photograph. But under the new system, people who want a license that's good for air travel will have to bring several forms of ID with them to their local circuit court clerk’s office.

“You’re going to basically need to reboot your identity information,” Henderson told lawmakers. “So we’re getting the word out to let people know that you have to bring in a proof of identity, you need to bring in a proof of your social security number and two proofs of your residence.”

Instead of leaving a circuit clerk’s office with a new license, drivers will receive them in the mail five to 10 days later and use a temporary ID until the permanent one arrives.


The tentative rollout in Jefferson County is between March 19 and March 22. The dates for other counties in the Louisville area are:

  • Bullitt County, March 25-29
  • Trimble County, March 25-29
  • Hardin County, March 25-29
  • Shelby County, April 1-5
  • Meade County, April 8-12
  • Oldham County, April 8-12
  • Spencer County. April 15-19


Reach reporter Marcus Green at 502-585-0825,, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2019 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.

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Marcus Green joined WDRB News in 2013 after 12 years as a staff writer at the Louisville Courier-Journal. He reports on transportation, development and local and state government.