The real deal on REAL IDs
By Chief Steven J. Wojnar
Dudley Police Department
I continue to receive questions on the “REAL ID” driver’s license program in Massachusetts. This is a federal security program created in 2005, due to the September 2001 terrorist attacks. The goal is to have standardized and secure identifications issued throughout the country. Massachusetts IDs will meet the similar standards as other states.
Due to the COVID-19 emergency, several dates have been moved surrounding the official implementation of this program here in the Commonwealth. I was asked to provide some updates and information on this program.
People who have valid licenses will have a choice of obtaining a standard driver’s license or a REAL ID. Both are available for issue by the Massachusetts Registry. Originally, the national standardized Real ID program was to take effect in Massachusetts as of October 2020.
This meant only a REAL ID or a valid passport would be an acceptable form of identification to fly domestically or enter federal buildings. These forms of identification are currently being offered through the Registry, however, due to the pandemic, the effective date for full implementation has been moved a few times.
In Massachusetts, this deadline has now been extended until May 3, 2023. This allows everyone more time to accomplish this goal. If you wish to obtain a standard license you can follow the same renewal plan as before. This may be done online or in person at a Mass DOT Registry point. Should you wish to obtain the REAL ID, it must be done in person, at a Registry or possibly AAA, office. You will be required to provide proof of citizenship or lawful presence, Massachusetts residency, and a valid social security number. A passport or a birth certificate are a valid proof of citizenship.
For the REAL ID, you will need some documentation that will display your 9-digit Social Security Number. These can include a pay stub, W2 form, 1099 form, a tax return, and any other official document that has the full number. Should you be required to prove residency, you can use any number of documents that display a residential (Not PO Box) address. A piece of first-class mail issued within 60 days can be used, as well as tax bills, utility bills, or other official correspondence proving your residence status. More information on these requirements can be found at https://www.mass.gov/guides/massachusetts-identification-id-requirements.
The form of license you wish to have is your choice. If you have no intention of flying or using this to enter federal buildings, the standard license is fine. If you have use for this official ID, you will need to have it in place by May 2023. Please review the proper documentation to bring with you to obtain the REAL ID to avoid multiple trips to the Registry and the frustration that accompanies it.
The close of summer and start of fall, brings the season of increased darkness. It is also a reminder that winter is not far away, unfortunately. We are approaching earlier sunsets and the sun is very low in the sky during the morning and afternoon drive times. Inclement weather events contribute to the problem. One way to add a measure of safety while driving is by using headlights. I was recently asked to remind drivers of when the use of headlights is required.
The rules governing headlight use are contained in several sections of the law. Headlights (as well as taillights) are to be used on a motor vehicle “during the period from one half hour after sunset to one half hour before sunrise, and during any other period when visibility is reduced by atmospheric conditions so as to render dangerous further operation without lights being displayed.” Massachusetts General Law Chapter 85 Section 15 requires both headlights and taillights to be used when, “visibility is reduced such that persons or vehicles on the roadway are not clearly discernible at a distance of 500 feet or when the vehicle’s windshield wipers are needed.” Although it is important to remember to activate lights when the wipers are needed, the law covers other times of reduced visibility. A violation can result in a civil fine of $5. Although the fine appears small, it is a surchargeable violation for insurance purposes. This results in future financial penalties for you.
Good news is you may use your vehicle lights whenever you wish, while operating. Many newer vehicles are equipped with running headlights that are always activated during operation. While this is good, if the conditions require compliance with the law, drivers will need to activate the vehicle taillights as well. Many people are unaware of this added section of the law. Headlight use, especially at this time of the year, assists drivers to see other vehicles easier, when atmospheric conditions are a factor. There is a greater likelihood of your vehicle being noticed sooner. Your cooperation can result in safer driving habits and a reduction in accidents and injuries.
For those still seeking vaccination information, it can be found at www.dudleyma.gov or by calling 508-949-8036. Please continue moving forward with the “re-opening” of our state in a reasonable manner. Your cooperation is greatly appreciated. During these challenging times, we, at the Dudley Police Department, greatly appreciate the support we receive from our community.
Thanks again for your questions and comments. Please send them to me at the Dudley Police Department 71 West Main St. Dudley, Ma. 01571 or email at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this weekly column are those of Chief Wojnar only and unless clearly noted, do not reflect the ideas or opinions of any other organization or citizen.