Arkansas Underage Drinking Prevention

New Vertical Driver's License for Minors

Right now, if a person goes into a convenience store, a supermarket or a gas station and attempts to purchase
alcohol or any type of tobacco product, the store clerk has
to look at the birth date on that person's id and do some
quick computing to find out whether or not their customer is old enough to make the purchase. Oftentimes, if there is a
long line or their store is busy, the clerk can make a mistake
in math and a minor succeeds in buying alcohol and tobacco products. Well, the State of Arkansas has helped store clerks across the state by doing the math for them, a move that we think will reduce the illegal sales of alcohol and tobacco to those under-age.

Effective this week, Arkansas minors will now be more easily identified by their state driver's license or ID card. Minors' licenses are now a completely different shape - vertical. The vertical format has all the same demographics as the presently used horizontal license - with a few minor changes. If the card holder is under the age of 21, there will be a red box under their photo listing the date they turn 21. If they are under the age of 18 there will be an additional yellow box listing the date they turn 18 directly above the red box. This new design will make it unmistakable to any alcohol or tobacco vendor that the individual is a minor.

Clerks will instantly - without having to do any kind of math - see whether or not an individual is under the age of 21. Most of the time clerks will ask for a driver's license, look at it and sell it to a minor anyway. In most cases the clerk is doing the math wrong and isn't looking closely at the license. Some clerks don't intend to break the law; but simply don't look at the information correctly. This new licenses will help to eliminate mistakes.

Arkansas was not the first state to come up with this innovative idea, but the fact is the vertical license already has been implemented in several other states including Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania Colorado and Texas. Numerous states that have adopted this new license format claim this has been overwhelmingly successful in cutting down on illegal tobacco and alcohol sales.

This change came at relatively little cost to the state. The Arkansas Department of Revenue spent 60 thousand dollars to purchase the software needed for conversion to the new format - and that was the only cost to the state.

Of course, the overall idea of this change is to reduce the amount of alcohol and cigarettes sold to those who are not legally old enough to make the purchases. State enforcement officers routinely travel the state to ensure businesses are not illegally selling these items, and in many cases there are fines levied to business owners or business representatives who allow the illegal sale to minors.

The truth is, however, that many businesses make these illegal sales inadvertently through employee oversights. The new vertical license is a way for the state to partner with Arkansas retail businesses to ensure these businesses can more efficiently make the decision to appropriately prohibit cigarette and alcohol sales.

As responsible citizens, we should make every attempt necessary to curtail illegal alcohol and cigarette sales to those under-age individuals.

It's amazing that a subtle change to the driver's licenses we issue to teenagers in Arkansas will likely prohibit deaths and potentially life-devastating diseases. Even if it saves just one life, the investment will be well worth it.

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Highway Safety Office