The Senate Transportation and Safety Committee approved legislation today requiring all new driver’s licenses issued to persons under the age of 21 in Tennessee be printed in vertical format to help businesses easily identify those who cannot drink alcohol.  Senate Bill 384 would give the driver the option to change their license to horizontal upon turning age 21 for the reduced cost of a duplicate license.


Presently, a tiny red bar along the side of the photo on the license indicates a person is under the age of 21.


“What this really addresses is underage drinking,” said Senator Massey.  “Excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths nationwide among underage youths each year.  Servers have found the small red bar presently on Tennessee licenses is hard to read, especially in high volume hours when a clerk or waiter is very busy.  This legislation will make it much quicker and easier to identify a person who is under the age of 21 to curb any unintentional mistakes that might otherwise occur.”


In 2016, there were 28 traffic fatalities in Tennessee with youth aged 15 to 20 years old measuring a blood alcohol level greater than .01 percent.  Reports also indicate that the percentage of young Tennesseans ages 12 to 20 who consumed alcohol in the past month was almost 17 percent.


It is unlawful to serve, sell or permit the furnishing of alcohol to anyone under the age of 21 in the state.  Tennessee made national headlines in 2007 when it became the first state to make store clerks card everyone who bought carry-out beer. The carding requirement for off-premise consumption was expanded in 2014 to include liquor and wine as part of the wine-in-grocery-stores law.


Massey said more than two-thirds of the states across the nation have vertical licenses for drivers under the age of 21.


The bill now goes to the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee for consideration before moving to the full Senate for a final vote.