Attention Georgia married women: If you took your husband’s last name, your driver’s license might be canceled.
In an effort to comply with state and federal laws, the state Driver Services Department has been checking its database against the records at the Social Security Administration. If the name on your license does not match the name on your Social Security card, the state will move to cancel your license.
changes her Social Security information but not the name on her license, her information could be flagged by the state. Likewise for divorces.
The only warning drivers get is a letter sent to their last known address informing them that they have 120 days to clear up the discrepancy. The state concedes that this has caused problems with many people, especially married women. But officials with the Driver Services Department can’t say how many of the state’s 6 million drivers have been notified during the four-year effort — or how many have had privileges revoked.
Shermekka Taylor of Suwanee can tell you about one.
While shopping for a better insurance rate this month, Taylor learned that her license had been canceled in 2005.
"I was so angry," said Taylor, a stay-at-home mother who said she was cooped up in her house for five days trying to get her license back. "I called a clerk and she said the letter had been sent to the wrong address. I began e-mailing my friends and found about 15 women who went through the same thing. I just wonder how many people are affected by this."
Two years ago, Driver Services officials said they were sending out as many as 5,000 warning letters a week. They didn’t offer an estimate last week.
A call seeking comment from Department of Driver Services Commissioner Greg Dozier were referred to Jennifer Ammons, the general counsel for the agency.
"We have had a lot of mail returned," Ammons said. "If somebody does not update their address with us, it is hard to contact them. But we have been doing this Social Security verification process for four years, and we have tried to publicize it."
The agency has been included in several news stories on the issue, Ammons said. The agency posted fliers and gave handouts at their customer service centers.
This effort dates to 2003, when the agency started collecting Social Security numbers because of the passage of the Federal Real ID Act, Ammons said. Another intent of the process was to help welfare agencies track parents who owe child support, Ammons said.
The agency then started checking the names, birth dates and Social Security numbers of drivers against what the Social Security Administration has on file. The state is about 90 percent through the process of checking more than 6 million records, Ammons said.
In 2005, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin received a letter saying her license was going to be canceled because Social Security files had her maiden name and a name from a previous marriage. Franklin was able to clear the problem quickly.
Others have not been so lucky.
"Typically, married women have been the majority of the drivers who have been affected by this," Driver Services spokeswoman Susan Sports said. "People have been stopped by police and surprised."
Karen Thomas of metro Atlanta got just that type of surprise when she was pulled over in November.
"I was stunned when the officer told me about my license," said Thomas, who said the officer allowed her to drive home. "I could have been arrested, and I never received a letter."
To check the status of your license call Department of Driver Services customer service at 678-413-8400. [Editor: Press Option 4]
To verify information with the Social Security Administration, call 1-800-772-1213.
You can access your driver record for a fee at the Department of Driver Services Web site at www.dds.ga.gov.
To change the name on your driver’s license:
If you change your name by marriage or otherwise you must go to a Driver Services customer service center to get an updated, free replacement license within 60 days. To change your name, you must present a certified copy of the marriage license or a certified copy of a court-ordered name change. To hyphenate your name, you must present a certified copy of the marriage license and a certified copy of the marriage license application stating the hyphenated name. Male applicants who take the wife’s name after marriage must satisfy this requirement.
SOURCE: AJC.com, in a report b of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, published on: 09/24/07