NJ bans big smiles in driver's license pictures
UNDATED (NBC) -- Waiting in line outside the motor vehicle offices gives drivers plenty of time to practice those smiles.
Most of them have heard by now: lose the grin when you walk in to get your driver's license picture taken.
"When I'm trying not to smile I'm using more muscles in my face than when I smile. You only use one muscle to smile. It's a good workout," says driver Jeannine Walsh.
Not amused by all, the no smile in New Jersey jokes, the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) wants drivers to know that a natural smile is fine, it's that "I -just -hit -the -lottery- grin," they want to discourage. It's all in the name of stopping fraud and identity theft and worse.
"I believe it's because of 9/11 and it's completely understandable under the circumstances, unfortunately," says driver Teri Sanders.
Back in January, the MVC launched its new face recognition software designed to go through some 19 million driver photo records to make sure that people are who they say they are and have only one driving record. A few criminal investigations have taken place since the new software has been implemented, but no complaints until a South Jersey woman said they wouldn't let her smile big enough.
Velvet McNeil says she will take a new picture now that she understands it's a huge smile that can distort your features and confuse the computer that measures facial features like the distance between your eyes or your chin and forehead. Drivers now have to take off their glasses, too, before the flash goes off.
Driver James Reilly can understand why.
"My friends even tell me I look different without my glasses on so I can understand why they said that," he says.