British Columbia

Driver's licence scanners proposed by Washington governor

The governor of Washington state has asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for permission to try an alternative to passports at two major Canada-U.S. border crossings.

The governor of Washington state has asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for permission to try an alternative to passports at two major Canada-U.S. border crossings.

Christine Gregoire has proposed that handheld driver's licence scanners be tried for a three-month test program at the Blaine border crossing south of Vancouver andat the Port Angeles border crossing south of Victoria.

The wireless scanners, which cost $10,000 each, scan the bar code on the back of licences, checking for fakes and whether the driver is on any security watch lists.

Gregoire said she hopes that the trial would dissuade the U.S. government from going ahead with its requirement for passports or other high-tech ID cards for Americans and Canadians at all border crossings by the summer of 2009.

Until now, a driver's licence has been all that's required.

She said residents of Washington state and B.C. have a "long history of friendship" and are used to greater flexibility in getting across the border.

Gregoire said the scanners could provide security without hampering trade and tourism, citing the need to have a smoothly operating system in place by the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Only 23 per cent of Americans currently hold passports, said Gigi Zenk of the Washington Department of Licensing. She also noted that new passports for Americans cost $90.

Zenk said the B.C. government supports the proposed three-month trial and is considering following suit.

Gregoire and B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell had met this summer in Vancouver to discuss the issue.

With files from the Associated Press