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95-year-old driver’s effort to renew license falls short at the MVD

GETTING REAL ON REAL ID: Dorothy Trainor recently penned a letter at 3 a.m. saying “it seems I can’t prove I am alive enough to renew my license after 50 years of driving.”

Dorothy, who just turned 95, took her Social Security statements, expired passports and utility bills, bank statements and tax bill to a Motor Vehicle Division office.

And because those passports are expired, she needs a birth certificate to get a Real ID license. She says that birth certificate is “buried in some boxes in the shed,” along with the proof she “served with the Army Air Corps four years in WWII.”

“At times I get to laughing at how near death I am,” she writes “yet I’m trying to prove I’m still alive to drive another year.”

In relatively the same boat is John Engelhardt, who tried to renew his license last week and emails “they refused my birth certificate even though it is stamped and embossed to be official. The back even states “TO PROVE CITIZENSHIP.” John points out the MVD website states documents accepted for proof of identity include “original or certified copy of birth certificate.”

What it should say is “original or certified copy of government-issued birth certificate.”

Ben Cloutier, director of communications for MVD’s parent, the state Tax & Revenue Department, says “the embossed hospital record is not an official record and birth must be registered by a government agency for Real ID purposes.”

To review, for a Real ID license you need one document to prove your ID number (a Social Security card, W2 or 1099 tax form), one document to prove your identity (original or certified government birth certificate, or current passport), and two proofs of residency (current bank statements, utility or property tax bills are the most common; a complete list is at

Drivers in predicaments similar to Dorothy and John – drivers who need to search for their birth certificate or request copies from the state they were born in – can use their current driver’s license and renew to get a DAC. A driver authorization card does virtually everything a Real ID license does except get you into certain federal installations and onto a commercial flight after October 2020. That lets you drive with a license while you track down documents to get a real ID.

REMEMBER THE ZIPPER MERGE: Carole of Paradise Hills emails “surely there is a better way to have traffic move over into a single lane while they work on the (Paseo del Norte) bridge. I like to think I am a polite driver and keep to the rules, but on (a recent) Saturday I got a good lesson on good guys finish last.”

Carole says “yes, I saw the sign telling me that the left two lanes were closed, so I dutifully moved over to the far right lane. Now the two lanes of traffic to my left continued to barrel down the road at the posted speed. Naturally when they came to the actual closure, they had to push into the single lane.”

“Meanwhile, dummies like myself were continually pushed farther back in the right-hand lane while people who had not heeded the sign were up front and on their way. It took me three quarters of an hour to drive from Second to Coors.

“Right at the place where the road narrowed (there) was a police car with a flashing light. Stupid and too late. Why not do what they do on the highways? First get the traffic into two lanes way back. Then filter it down to a single lane before we get there. Great, no stopped traffic, no frayed tempers and nerves.”

Traffic folks would say the better plan is to use all lanes until you don’t have them, and have drivers take turns to merge into the remaining lane. Like the teeth of a zipper. That’s why they call it a zipper merge. The New Mexico Department of Transportation promotes this and even has a video posted courtesy of its Minnesota counterpart. While it just addresses two lanes into one, you get the idea.

Last year an NMDOT spokeswoman explained in this column that “upon seeing a lane closure sign, the smart merger immediately reduces speed and resists the urge to merge early. During congested situations, it’s recommended that both lanes be used until the closed lane actually closes. The merging traffic and the through traffic lane should then act as a zipper that is closing and allow every other vehicle from the merging lane to enter the remaining open lane. In other words, every other car gets its turn at merging into the single open lane. This should be considered a standard for safe merging habits and has been found to reduce the overall length of traffic back-ups by as much as 40 percent.”

Editorial page editor D’Val Westphal tackles commuter issues for the Metro area on Mondays. Reach her at 823-3858;; or P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, N.M. 87103.