By PETER KASPARI
A new website recently created by the Iowa Department of Transportation provides an opportunity for drivers to renew their licenses without ever leaving their homes.
Since July 22, Iowa drivers have been able to renew their licenses online via the Iowa DOT's website.
Mark Lowe, director of the DOT's motor vehicle division, said the new site makes the process more convenient.
"You're saving the trip and saving the time waiting at the station," Lowe said. "Really it can be accomplished in about five minutes."
He added the process is also allowing for more government efficiency, since "we are investing less resources in conducting those renewals. We can take resources and point them to things that need more attention."
The new website had a "soft release" on July 17, and officially debuted last week.
Lowe said the process itself doesn't take very long. Those renewing their licenses must provide their first and last name, birth date, the last five digits of their Social Security number and their Iowa license or ID number.
"Once they've identified themselves, we run an eligibility check to make sure they're eligible for online renewal or if we need to see them personally," Lowe said. "If they pass that threshold, it's the same process where they'd ask you the same questions that you'd be ask if we saw you in person."
"Really it's taking what we do personally and putting a few other criteria online," he added.
However, not everybody can renew their license online. The online renewal is limited to people who are at least 18 years old but younger than 70. Anybody changing their name, address, gender or birth date will have to visit a facility in person.
Lowe said anybody who is changing license restrictions or endorsements will also need to appear in person, and those who are not United States citizens can't register online either because of necessary documents that DOT officials need to see.
He added that anybody with a simple glasses restriction, listed on a driver's license as a "B" restriction, can use the online renewal system, but if somebody has a more specific restriction they will need to come in and renew in person.
While the system is new to Iowa, Lowe said the state isn't a "trailblazer" when it comes to having online renewals.
"There are probably a little more than half the states that offer what I refer to as remote renewal," Lowe said. "We've been working on it for about three years to get through the legislative process. We're happy to get it approved this year and get it into production."
However, he also urged those wanting to utilize the system to be wary of potential scams that exist online. Lowe said there are some websites that appear to be legitimate, but actually aren't.
"The main thing is to make sure they're at iowadot.gov," he said. "Any type of ending that is not .gov or not associated with the Iowa Department of Transportation will not allow you to renew online."
Some websites even have disclaimers on them saying they are not affiliated with the Iowa government, but Lowe said some may not even notice and try to register anyway.
"Those sites are structured to make people think they're renewal websites," he said. "Make sure you keep an eye out for the Iowa Department of Transportation and .gov on the site. Avoid anything that's .org or .com."
Lowe said he's hopeful the system will be utilized by all eligible Iowans.
"My hope is that people get comfortable with it and that we've given them a reasonable, cost-effective choice," he said. "It'll save the citizens and taxpayers time and money, and we've created a platform that will offer that additional convenience."