Kentucky’s coming switch from four-year driver’s licenses to eight-year driver’s licenses could have a negative effect on how many people sign up to become organ donors. That’s a concern recently expressed to state legislators by Shelley Snyder, executive director of the Kentucky Circuit Court Clerks’ Trust for Life.
Right now, circuit court clerks ask about one million people a year if they’d like to register to be an organ donor, but that number could be “sliced in half” because people won’t need to renew their licenses so often, Snyder told a legislative committee in Frankfort recently.
“Our circuit clerks have gone above and beyond in their efforts to educate and ensure that everyone is asked while getting a driver’s license,” Snyder testified. “We’ve grown to over 1.8 million Kentuckians now registered, so about 60 percent of (Kentucky adults) are registered as organ donors, so we know that the support is there.”
However, “we’re just really losing the audience that typically would join,” she said.
As part of an effort to improve the security of identity credentials, such as driver’s licenses, Kentucky is moving to a new system that will be phased in starting in early 2019.
Kentuckians renewing existing driver’s licenses, permits or personal IDs or who are applying for the first time will be able to request either a standard credential or a voluntary travel ID, the credential that will meet federal standards for boarding domestic flights and restricted federal facilities.
During the first four years of the new system, non-commerical driver’s license applicants and applicants 21 and older will be able to request a four-year or eight-year credential. But the four-year option goes away in 2023.
To help offset diminished traffic in circuit court clerk’s offices, Snyder would like to see lawmakers follow Minnesota’s lead by making it possible for Kentuckians to be asked to have their names added to the organ donor registry when they apply for a license to fish or hunt. To that end, a bill is being drafted for consideration during the 2019 session of the General Assembly, she said.
Because the details of that bill, which Sen. Julie Raque Adams is expected to sponsor, haven’t been finalized, it’s unclear whether the applicants would be asked online, in person or both.
But “we want to give everybody the opportunity to join the registry easily and (as) seamlessly as possible,” Snyder said in Frankfort.
In the committee meeting, Adams, R-Louisville, said she is passionate about the topic of organ donation and that it’s important to think creatively. Snyder said partnering with interested agencies and organizations is being considered, too, to find more donors.
“We need more people to say yes to organ donation, join that registry and support it in order to meet the demand that continues to grow,” Snyder said in an interview.
The Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources is aware of the discussion about hunting and fishing licenses but has not taken an official position on it, said Kevin Kelly, a spokesman for the department.
“We haven’t made any decisions about it,” he said.
Currently, people can get hunting and fishing licenses online as well as at various vendor locations, including some retail stores, such as Walmart, and sporting goods stores and from some county clerks.
Having enough people to register to become organ donors is important because it’s a potentially lifesaving act, and there are about 1,000 Kentuckians waiting for transplants, Snyder said.
“Nationally, it’s 115,000 … and every 10 minutes someone is added to the waiting list,” she said. “It’s astounding, and it continues to grow. … There’s a scarcity of organs.”
Currently, Kentuckians do have the option to sign up online by going to donatelifeky.org (and via the Medical ID function on their iPhones). However, people can get distracted from doing that, Snyder said.
“We just know when they’re standing there in line at driver’s license (branches) and they’re asked the question, it’s such an easy system,” she said.