The Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles will begin a pilot program this week designed to crack down on teen-agers' use of outdated driver's licenses to buy alcohol illegally, officials said yesterday.
The program is another effort by state and local officials to join grassroots crusades against drunk drivers. Such activity led last year to passage of laws toughening penalties for driving while intoxicated.
Starting Wednesday, seven of the state's 57 driver licensing facilities, including the Leesburg office in Northern Virginia, will require all applicants for license renewals to turn in their old licenses.
"This is only a small step to begin to gain better control of fraudulent driver's licenses and their use," said Commissioner Donald E. Williams in a memorandum announcing the six-month pilot program.
Some state officials said a similar state program was dropped four years ago as too costly and ineffective.
"We felt we weren't seeing an increase or decrease in the use of fraudulent licenses," said Assistant Commissioner Asbury W. Quillian of the Division of Motor Vehicles. He said the procedures used to account for and destroy the old licenses were expensive and time-consuming.
"We tried shredding them and that didn't work because they are made of plastic," said Quillian. "They had to be sent to Richmond to be incinerated."
But Quillian added: "If it saves one life we have to consider the program successful."
The Division of Motor Vehicles agreed to the program at the prodding of Fairfax Board Chairman John F. Herrity, who elicited the support of Gov. Charles S. Robb. Herrity said yesterday he was disappointed that no suburban licensing offices were selected for the program and has asked the Division of Motor Vehicles to add a local office.
Quillian said most of the Northern Virginia suburban facilities are "very, very high volume offices" and frequently are used for various department test programs. He said high-volume offices from other sections of the state, including Portsmouth and Petersburg, were selected for this experiment in an effort to spread programs around.
Herrity said he initiated his requests for the program after a drunk teen-ager involved in a fatal automobile accident in Northern Virginia admitted he used a false driver's license to purchase alcohol. Under Virginia law, it is illegal for people younger than 18 to drink beer in a restaurant, younger than 19 to purchase beer to take out and younger than 21 to buy hard liquor.