At the DMV, don’t even think about smiling …

Summary:  A couple of weeks ago, Kathy ( my wife ) went to the Virginia DMV to get her driver’s license renewed. When she sat down to have her picture taken, the DMV person politely told her to wipe the smile off her face.

No joke. It is a new policy that is being enforced. To find out why, keep reading…

* * * * *

Excerpted from the Washington Post, “As if It Needed to, Virginia Bans Smiles at the DMV”,  May 28, 2009

Few places in Virginia are as draining to the soul and as numbing to the buttocks as the branch offices of the Department of Motor Vehicles. And yet, until recently, smiling was still permitted there.

No more. As part of the DMV’s effort to develop super-secure driver’s licenses and foolproof identification cards, the agency has issued a smile ban, directing customers to adopt a “neutral expression” in their portraits, thereby extinguishing whatever happiness comes with finally hearing one’s number called.

The driver’s license photo, it seems, is destined to look like a mug shot.

DMV officials say the smile ban is for a good cause. The agency would like to develop a facial recognition system that could compare customers’ photographs over time to prevent fraud and identity theft.

“The technology works best when the images are similar, so to prepare for the possibility of future security enhancements, we’re asking customers to maintain a neutral expression.”


As for DMV patrons in Virginia, there is further cause for disappointment beyond the anti-smile rule. With the new system, state residents can no longer get their licenses and identification cards on the same day as their visits.

Instead, licenses and identification cards are now processed at a central facility in the southern Virginia city of Danville, then mailed to the customer’s address a few days later. The new cards are loaded with security features, including tactile lettering, secondary photos and anti-tampering measures, and they will be phased in as state residents renew their licenses and ID cards.

Nationwide, 37 motor vehicle agencies use facial recognition technologies.

One Response to “At the DMV, don’t even think about smiling …”

  1. Wipe that smile off your face … if you’re in New Jersey, that is. « The Homa Files Says:

    […] NJ is at least 3 years behind Virginia … we posted about my wife’s smiling reprimand back in […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s