Lack of Real ID Awareness Could Hamper Future Travel

More than half of consumers unaware of 2020 deadline to upgrade driver’s license
security-airport_optkwv

Consumers could be turned away from flights next year in droves, due to a lack of awareness about a federal law designed to increase security.

In a move to better protect Americans, the Real ID Act of 2005 calls for a minimum set of security standards for identification documents, such as driver’s licenses. As part of the law’s implementation, the deadline of Oct. 1, 2020 was established by which travelers will need a Real ID-compliant driver’s license or other acceptable form of identification, such as a passport, in order to board a commercial plane. Consumers who use their driver’s licenses as a form of identification to fly domestically must take steps to make sure their license is compliant by that date. Real ID-compliant licenses are identifiable by a star on the top of the card.

While the deadline is still a year away, the U.S. Travel Association is sounding the alarm that some travelers may not meet it. To become Real ID-compliant, you typically must present physical documentation of your identity, Social Security number, residence and any name changes in person with your state Motor Vehicle Administration. You may be required to make an appointment in order to present your documents, which may take some time depending upon how busy they are.

To identify the challenges raised by the rollout of Real ID, the U.S. Travel Association conducted two surveys this year, each given to 1,000 adults, that looked at the public’s understanding of the requirements — or lack thereof.

Most respondents — 87% — said they have a state-issued driver’s license. However, 72% of respondents either said their driver’s license is not Real-ID compliant or they showed signs of being confused about whether it was.

While 44% of respondents said they believed their state-issued driver’s license to be Real ID-compliant, the answers given in response to other survey questions suggested some of them might be mistaken. In fact, only 16% believed their driver’s license was Real ID-compliant and could correctly identify the star on their license.

Not only are most consumers non-compliant today, but many could potentially be non-compliant by next year since 57% of respondents were unaware of the Oct. 1, 2020, deadline for travel. Most respondents are also hoping for leniency if they don’t comply, as 70% also supported some type of mercy granted to travelers who don’t meet the deadline, such as issuing a grace period.

The study also looked at the impact these challenges meeting the deadline might have on the economy as a whole. Many industries could be impacted by a steep decline in travel. According to the findings, if the Real ID deadline were to take place today, approximately 78,500 travelers could be turned away at the gate on Day One, which would cost approximately $40.3 million in travel spending, excluding airfares. The economic impact of a week based on today’s numbers would amount to approximately $282 million in unrealized travel costs, with 549,500 travelers not permitted to fly.

Planning ahead is essential to a seamless travel experience. Not only should you plan out your travel budget in advance, but there are steps you should take to be proactive about keeping your finances safe when you’re on the go. Upgrading your license to be Real ID-compliant is another action you should put on your travel checklist sooner rather than later. If you’re not certain how to do so, contact your state’s department of motor vehicles.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.

Comments and Questions