As the nation that invented the driving of automobiles, any licensed driver feels a chill go up his or her spine when they have to consider a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles. I’ve been going there now for forty years and on one of my recent visits, (in what was far from a nightmare) I almost began to buy the concept that DMV service and information was getting better. After today’s visit I don’t know how I could have felt that way.
Americans know that things like government sequestration and budget cuts have impacted service delivery of the vast network of DMV’s, (which are regulated by individual states).
To me it appears the average DMV (I’ve been to them in no less than four states over time) is a place that time and technology have forgotten. When I arrived today at what I thought was an off-hour (10:30 AM) the line was out the door. I found out after the fact that one can go on the DMV website to get an idea of waiting time. Except that those people waiting outside the door are not counted. In fact the wait time has nothing to do with the first line you stand in. So there’s no way to know unless you actually show up.
There’s no visible signage – digital or otherwise but the good news is that they sell some packaged pastries and soft drinks. People showed up with books to read while they waited. I have not seen that in a long time (used to be in banks in Los Angeles in the 1970’s that people showed up with books and I wondered why, at first).
There was no way to know one person’s reason for going to the DMV over another aside from those of us that were carrying license plates. I just knew if I actually reached the Oz-like window (opening?) and was able to actually talk with a DMV employee, that the first question would be “are you returning your plates?” Aside from going to see the dentist I can’t think of a place people would want to avoid going more than the DMV. It must be disheartening for the people that work there to see the frustration and have to deal with thoroughly aggravated people who’ve waited longer than an hour to perform what should be a very simple task.
Could Fedex or UPS or Amazon or some private company do a better job of managing the DMV? The answer is YES! But it seems like it will never happen and that’s just too bad. Smart use of technology could help alleviate some of the problems, but the approach is all wrong as DMV’s are under-funded, under-resourced, under-staffed and overwhelmed.
That DMV data is seen as so vitally important to local and national security makes privatizing a complicated concept. But what exists currently is not working. People deserve better don’t you agree?