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DMV seeks to cut wait times at license offices

Posted March 20, 2012 4:09 p.m. EDT
Updated March 20, 2012 7:06 p.m. EDT

— The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles is preparing to introduce a new electronic system for renewing and issuing licenses that officials say will cut the time most people spend at DMV offices.

The Next Generation Secure Driver License System being introduced early next year also will include features such as laser-engraved 3-D photos on driver's licenses, officials said Tuesday.

Deputy DMV Commissioner Johanna Reese said budget cuts have left branches understaffed, leading to long lines and wait times that average about 34 minutes.

"One of our main goals is to cut back the wait time in some of our bigger and busier offices," Reese told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation. "Some (waits) can go a couple hours or more, and we'd really like to get people in and out faster."

Part of the problem is that branches are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday – the same hours that most people work. The DMV is recommending having offices open 10 hours a day, four days a week.

"This would accommodate people who would be able to come after work and before work and also spread out our workload during the work day," Reese said.

The agency also is seeking more power to move staff from quieter offices to busier ones to help cut wait times to under 30 minutes.

Solving the staffing problem would take money, but Reese didn't provide any cost estimates.

The DMV wants to charge an extra dollar for some online services and for paper copies of the driver's handbook. Lawmakers could also raise the driver's license fee, especially for first-time licenses with road tests, which currently cost $4.

"It is a pretty good deal, and it may be something that needs to be looked at, so we've got all these options on the table," said Rep. Philip Frye, R-Mitchell.

The solution seems pretty simple to Corey Narron, who spent his entire lunch hour Tuesday at the DMV office on Avent Ferry Road in Raleigh.

"Extend the hours a little bit (and) hire a few more people. That should solve the problem," Narron said. "I don't think it's fair. I think, if we had to take our time off of work to come, that the speed of the time to be seen should be faster than what it is."

The changes to driver's licenses are part of a national push to introduce new security measures and decrease the possibility of identity theft. The new licenses to be issued to North Carolina's more than 6.9 million drivers will also include machine-readable technology and backgrounds with variable colors and patterns. Officials say the changes will make the ID cards virtually impossible to counterfeit.