Tennessee ahead of national average obtaining REAL ID

Becky Campbell • Dec 1, 2019 at 8:02 PM

Tennessee’s 4.7 million valid driver’s license and state-issued identification card holders have listened to the call to have their cards replaced with a new identification card called REAL ID, which will be required next year for commercial flights, entering a nuclear facility or accessing certain federal buildings. 

“Getting a Real ID in Tennessee is optional,” according to Wesley Moster, director of communications for the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security. “With that said, Tennessee is an outlier compared to other states in terms of how many people are getting their Real ID. The national average of people getting a Real ID is 27%. Currently Tennessee is seeing roughly 33% of their residents getting a Real ID.”

As of Nov. 21, the department had issued 278,943 Real IDs.

What is a REAL ID?

According to the state Department of Safety website, “the REAL ID Act of 2005 establishes minimum security standards for license issuance and production and prohibits federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes driver licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the act’s minimum standards. Beginning Oct. 1, 2020, all persons must have a REAL ID license for accessing certain federal buildings, entering nuclear facilities, and boarding commercial flights within the United States.”

Who needs a REAL ID?

Tennesseans are not required to obtain a REAL ID compliant license,” Moster said. “The decision to get a REAL ID credential is completely up to the individual. A REAL ID driver license or identification credential is not required for any other reason than to allow you to continue to fly domestically within the United States, access certain federal facilities and nuclear power plants starting Oct. 1, 2020. You can still drive, vote, buy alcohol or cigarettes etc. without a Real ID.

“Legacy licenses include revoked, suspended or a license that doesn’t have a Real ID star or wording saying “Not for Federal Identification.” At some point, all licenses will be Real ID (with a star) or non-real ID license (Not for federal identification). Tennessee has 6.8 million licenses (revoked, suspended, real ID and non-real ID) but only 4.7 million of those licenses are valid licenses,” Moster said.

 By the numbers:

                                            # License/ID   REAL ID       NON-REAL ID

  • Washington County:     122,940            5,359                 9,786
  • Carter County:               53,737            1,319                  5,197
  • Unicoi County:               16,843               499                  1,501
  • Johnson County:           15,362                508                  1,338
  • Sullivan County:           156,577            5,915                12,888
  • Greene County:              66,396            2,346                 5,555




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