Why Pennsylvania is Replacing Nearly Half a Million Licenses — Including Mine

PennDOT has been mailing out corrected licenses to 475,000 drivers who recently got licenses. A typo in a security feature went uncorrected for months.

Pennsylvania drivers license - correct security feature

The blue keystone “PA” pattern is visible under blacklight. Letters near the top are transposed to “AP” in faulty licenses. (Image via PennDOT)

I got a letter from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation late last week. “What did I do?” I thought. I panicked, even though I probably shouldn’t have. I have a license to drive, but I don’t own a car — so it wasn’t a red-light ticket. I had renewed my license in January. I had my new one already.

I opened the envelope with a little trepidation. Inside was what appeared to be an identical copy of my driver’s license. “PennDOT’s Bureau of Driver Licensing recently discovered one of our vendors supplied a security feature for the production of driver’s license and identification cards that was defective,” the letter from PennDOT began. “As a result, your recently issued driver’s license or identification card may have been produced with the defective security feature.”

Last month, PennDOT announced, to limited fanfare, that it would be replacing 475,000 licenses. When viewed under a black light, the faulty one — the one I got when I renewed my license in early February — shows the letters “AP.” It’s supposed to say “PA.” PennDOT identified the companies at fault as MorphoTrust USA and its subcontractor OpSec; MorphoTrust has been replacing the licenses free of charge.

I now have two drivers’ licenses. In theory, people could sell their faulty licenses to teenagers for use as fake IDs — though attentive bouncers with black lights would be able to spot the “AP” licenses. (Before you accuse me of attempting this, know that I am 32 and that no teenager could pass for me.)

PennDOT says the “AP” error “does not impact the validity of your driver’s license or identification card on PennDOT’s records.” The faulty licenses went out from November 2014 to February 25th of this year. “Because of the flawed security feature, the original license may not be accepted as proof of identification when scanned by black light devices,” PennDOT’s Kurt J. Myers said in a statement. “However, this issue should not impact security checks by the Transportation Security Administration at airports since TSA references a different security feature on the license or identification card in its verification process.”

According to a FAQ published by PennDOT, drivers who have had their licenses suspended will be issued the corrected ID when the suspension is over. Those who just surrendered their licenses to serve a suspension but still received a fixed ID in the mail have to turn in those licenses in order for their suspensions to begin.

The state FAQ on the PennDOT license vendor error is below.

PennDOT License Vendor Error FAQ