Letters to the Editor

NC DMV lines penalize those who can least afford to wait

I read Robin Kirk’s recent commentary about her experience at the DMV with great interest (“Hurry up and wait ... and wait ... at the DMV,” Aug. 31) As a new resident of the area I have been to the DMV twice in the last month.

I went once in an attempt to get my own driver’s license changed over and was turned away because my married name isn’t on my Social Security card. I went a second time to keep my daughter company when she changed her license over.

I visited two different branches, one in Raleigh and one in Durham. Both times I was appalled at the wait and the number of people caught in this bureaucratic web. The person at the front desk obviously decides which stream to place you in. They also decide if your forms are in order or whether to send you home.

But why should people have to wait any time at all to only be sent home?

Shouldn’t the sorting be done at the front of the line rather than the end of it? How are seniors or disabled citizens to be expected to negotiate this system? Or working people who lose wages? How will this impact voting if obtaining ID is so onerous?

Everyone waits in the same long line approaching that desk. Thirty minutes for me in one case and 3 1/2 HOURS in another. The lost productivity is staggering. Hundreds of people in multiple locations just in our local area are missing work every day.

Once inside, our particular business seemed to garner us a quicker pass than some. By the time we got our numbers we were only five to 10 people away from our turn at the counter.

Both branches had Help Wanted signs posted. Both branches only had half of the wickets open and attended to help citizens looking to complete their business. Few people that I eavesdropped on seemed to be there to convert their license to Real ID. Most seemed to be there to replace lost or stolen ID or to change their license from another state like me, or some other business.

On my first visit with my husband we spent 2 1/2 hours total at a branch in south Raleigh. My second visit with my daughter took five hours total at a branch in south Durham. I still have my third visit for my own license to look forward to. I plan on getting there a half hour before opening with a lawn chair and a book.

This is a prime example of citizenry being ill-served by their government. I plan on submitting these thoughts to some of the administrators at the Department of Transportation. I may even write the governor. Thank you to Robin Kirk for addressing this issue at least in part in her column. I’ve lived in five states and my North Carolina DMV experience has been so far the very worst.

Beth Austin lives in Durham.

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