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'We Check to Protect!'
July 1, 2003
Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land and a coalition of safety advocates have a message for those under 21: "We Check to Protect!"
Beginning today, a new law requires the state to issue vertically designed driver's licenses and ID cards to young people. The goal of the Vertical Identification Program (VIP) is to keep minors from buying alcohol, tobacco and other age-restricted products. Land and an alliance of government, retail, safety and law-enforcement representatives rolled out a campaign called "We Check to Protect!" to highlight the law.
"This law will literally have a sobering effect," Land said. "It gives front-line retailers and law-enforcement officers an instant visual cue so that they can correctly identify a license-holder's age. It also gives parents peace of mind knowing that their children carry licenses designed to ensure their well-being. The health and safety risks are enormous when alcohol and tobacco fall into underage hands. As parents, policy-makers and responsible business operators, we're doing something about it."
State Sen. Shirley Johnson, R-Royal Oak, and former state Sen. Loren Bennett authored Public Acts 553 and 554 of 2002, which create the vertical license program.
The new vertical format differs radically from the horizontal licenses now carried by all residents.
The redesigned format is being issued to residents under 21 who receive new licenses or IDs, as well as renewals or replacements. Licenses with the standard horizontal design are still valid for minors who already possess them.
However, the Department of State will exchange standard licenses for the updated version free of charge until Oct. 1. Parents are encouraged to have their children bring their current license into any Secretary of State branch office. A temporary license will be issued for use until the vertical license arrives by mail.
The revamped layout also creates a more tamper-resistant design to thwart attempted alterations or forgeries. The cards clearly list the dates when license-holders turn ages 18 and 21, and include other security features such as the date of birth that overlaps a second "ghost" image, or photo of the license-holder.
Johnson pointed out that the law protects business owners as well.
"Violating state liquor and tobacco sales laws could result in stiff penalties," Johnson said. "Few business owners intentionally run that risk. The security of being able to immediately determine a minor's status gives retailers an extra measure of comfort."
At least 13 other states use the vertical license system and report declines in the number of illegal sales to minors, according to Bennett.
"I am proud to have played a role in keeping Michigan at the forefront of ensuring public health and safety," Bennett said. "It is gratifying to see state government, law enforcement, retailers and parents pull together for the sake of our children."
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