Ride safely and in style in a licensed limo

May 8, 2012

Springtime is prime time for limousine rentals, but before hiring a limousine or town car for a ride to the prom or a wedding, the state Department of Licensing reminds people to check to see if the company is licensed and legitimate.

Limousine operators in Washington must be licensed, carry sufficient liability insurance and undergo annual safety inspections by the Washington State Patrol. Chauffeurs must be at least 21, hold a valid driver’s license, complete a training course and pass a state patrol background check.

Check limousine companies’ licenses at the Department of Licensing website, www.dol.wa.gov/business/limousine.

“There are many quality limousine companies to choose from in Washington state, but you don’t want to be taken for a ride by an unlicensed limousine company,” Department of Licensing Director Alan Haight said in a statement. “Always check references and make sure the company is licensed before you hire them.”

State warns customers about driver’s license scam

November 15, 2011

State licensing officials urged residents to beware of a bogus website claiming to be the “official provider of Washington driver license forms.”

The website came to the state Department of Licensing’s attentions after customers came across the language and called the agency.

The website asks customers to pay $24.95, although the message is not clear about what the payment is for — but the payment does not renew a driver’s license.

“The only ‘official provider’ of Department of Licensing forms is the Department of Licensing, and they are free,” agency Director Alan Haight said in a statement.

Customers can ensure the website is legitimate by checking the URL.

Official Department of Licensing sites include www.dol.wa.gov in the address. Browsers on secure portions of the website, such as the driver’s license renewal section, display a padlock icon or a similar image, and a https:// as the prefix of the address, to denote the area is secure.

King County Elections offers options to voters still waiting for ballots

November 8, 2011

NEW — 11:30 a.m. Nov. 8, 2011

Voters still waiting on ballots can participate in the November election, King County Elections announced Tuesday — the deadline to postmark or return ballots to drop boxes.

On Monday, the Washington Secretary of State’s Office said officials had not received updated voter registration information from the state Department of Licensing. The state allows people to register to vote and update registration information, such as addresses, through the Department of Licensing.

The affected voters recently used the Department of Licensing website to register or update registration information. Statewide, the problem could mean delayed ballots for about 21,000 voters.

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State warns customers about bogus driver’s license forms

November 2, 2011

NEW — 6 a.m. Nov. 2, 2011

State licensing officials urged residents to beware of a bogus website claiming to be the “official provider of Washington driver license forms.”

The website came to the state Department of Licensing’s attentions after customers came across the language and called the agency.

The website asks customers to pay $24.95, although the message is not clear about what the payment is for — but the payment does not renew a driver’s license.

“The only ‘official provider’ of Department of Licensing forms is the Department of Licensing, and they are free,” agency Director Alan Haight said in a statement. “I can also ensure our customers that our agency website is safe, secure and offers a lot of time-saving services.”

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State nets almost $3 million from Discover Pass sales

October 25, 2011

Sales prompt backups, confusion at state park

The state-mandated Discover Pass generated $2.9 million for state parks and other public recreation lands since the state and retailers started offering the pass in June — crucial dollars for the cash-strapped agencies responsible for managing public lands.

Officials started requiring a $30 annual pass or a $10 day-use pass to park vehicles at recreation lands statewide July 1. The pass is mandatory for state parks, as well as lands managed by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and the state Department of Natural Resources.

State public lands agencies need to generate about $60 million per year in sales to compensate for deep budget cuts. The agencies split the revenue — 84 percent for state parks and 8 percent apiece for the others.

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Discover Pass is available to vehicle owners renewing registration

September 8, 2011

NEW — 10 a.m. Sept. 8, 2011

The annual Discover Pass for state parks and recreation lands is now available through the state Department of Licensing.

The agency started mailing notices in early September to owners of vehicle license tabs set to expire on or after Oct. 1.

Motorists can also purchase the Discover Pass at vehicle licensing offices or online as part of the registration renewal process. Purchasing the pass through the Department of Licensing does not have dealer or transaction fees attached.

People buying the pass through the Department of Licensing should receive the Discover Pass in the mail from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife within 10 days of renewal and purchase.

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Police gain capability to retrieve license photos during stops

September 6, 2011

Police used to rely on text descriptions to identify criminals, but now, due to upgraded computer capabilities, officers can retrieve driver’s license photos on in-car computers.

Through a $300,000 grant from the State, Regional and Federal Enterprise Retrieval System project and the Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority, officers can quickly confirm a person’s identity by using a copy of a state Department of Licensing photo.

The program is expected to reach most law enforcement agencies in the state soon.

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State updates commercial driver’s license tests

September 6, 2011

The state Department of Licensing updated the driving tests taken by people seeking a commercial driver’s license Sept. 1.

The major change to the test requires drivers to complete a third backing-up exercise. In addition, the test’s scoring system has been updated to expand a tester’s ability to evaluate the driver’s performance during the road test.

The state also plans to adopt updated testing procedures next year to better measure a commercial driver’s ability to perform a commercial vehicle inspection.

Officials said the changes reflect national commercial driver’s license knowledge and skills-testing standards. Experts at the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators developed the standards. The changes also received the endorsement of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the regulator for the trucking industry.

Learn more about the changes at the Department of Licensing’s website, www.dol.wa.gov.

Washington has about 200,000 commercial drivers or commercial permit holders, and gives about 10,000 commercial driver’s license skills tests each year.

State adopts changes to emission testing

August 30, 2011

The owners of some vehicles may no longer need to undergo emission testing after July 2012, as the state Department of Ecology prepares to enact rule changes to the testing program.

The state requires certain vehicles in King County and other densely populated areas to undergo emission tests to reduce air pollution.

Under the rule change required by the Legislature and due to go into effect next summer, all 2009 and newer model year vehicles do not require testing. In addition, additional businesses may be authorized to conduct tests. The rule change also eliminates some emission tests.

The measure calls for the same standards to be used for all 1995 model year and older gasoline vehicles. The rule change exempts light-duty diesel vehicles from testing and tightens test standards for heavy-duty diesel vehicles. The measure nixes the gas cap test and dynamometer testing.

Department of Ecology officials posted the complete rule and supporting documents on the agency’s air quality website. The agency announced the impending rule change Thursday.

The agency accepted public comments on the proposal in March and held a public hearing on proposed changes in Federal Way.

Besides King County, vehicles in Clark, Pierce, Snohomish and Spokane counties undergo emission tests.

If a vehicle needs to undergo the test, the owner receives a reminder inside his or her tab renewal notice or email reminder reading, “This vehicle must pass a Washington emission inspection.” Then, the vehicle must be tested before he or she can renew the tabs.

Police gain capability to retrieve license photos during stops

August 27, 2011

NEW — 8 a.m. Aug. 27, 2011

Police used to rely on text descriptions to identify criminals, but now, due to upgraded computer capabilities, officers can retrieve driver’s license photos on in-car computers.

Through a $300,000 grant from the State, Regional and Federal Enterprise Retrieval System project and the Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority, officers can quickly confirm a person’s identity by using a copy of a state Department of Licensing photo.

The program is expected to reach most law enforcement agencies in the state soon.

“This is about catching bad guys who are trying to deceive us by using fake names,” Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste said in a statement. “We are now able to quickly determine the real identity of these people.”

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