I don’t know anyone who likes the Department Of Motor Vehicles in any state. The DMV seems to represent all we hate in bureaucracy. Surely there’s got to be a better way? Here’s a short tale of the absurdity of replacing my driver’s license.
I’ve misplaced my wallet. Maybe I’ve actually lost it, but having looked everywhere, I’ve concluded it’s not turning up soon. That means canceling credit cards and getting a replacement driver’s license. That especially sucks since I was just issued a brand new one allowing me to ride motorcycles in addition to cars.
I headed over to the California DMV site to look up what’s required for a replacement card. The instructions are all here, and they start out:
To apply for a duplicate license or ID card, you will need to:
* Make an Appointment(s) to visit a DMV office
Those instructions are a big fail from the very beginning. Why? To drive, you have to have a license on you. It’s legally required. So make an appointment? Sure, I did that. On February 20th — over a month from now — I can go into my local office to be processed.
I can’t wait that long. Who on earth does the DMV think can wait that long for a replacement drivers licenses? I’m going to have to go into the office as soon as possible and wait in line without an appointment.
That’s fine. I’m not complaining about having to wait. I lost my wallet. The state’s under no obligation to shoot me to the front of the line for my own ineptness. But let’s provide instructions that make sense. Say something like, “If you need to drive immediately, you’ll need to visit an office as soon as possible.” There’s nothing like this.
Next, the instructions say:
Complete a Driver License or Identification Card Application form DL 44 or DL 44C. Pay the application fee Give a thumb print Have your picture taken
OK, the first item, no problem. On the second, in cash-strapped California, here’s an opportunity. Charge me an express processing fee! Really soak me to get my license processed faster and use that extra money to speed the process up for everyone. Missed opportunity.
The next two have me scratching my head. The DMV just sent me a license literally two weeks ago. Fresh picture. Same thumbprint as they already had on file. Why are they doing this again?
Further down, the instructions say:
To ensure your identity is secure, the DMV will validate your photograph, social security number, and your personal information.
Say what? What do they have to validate? I’m asking for a duplicate license to be sent to the current address they have on file for me. I look like the picture that will be on the replacement license. I have the same thumbprint. In the past, when I’ve renewed my license online, they’ve sent me a new one. How on earth is this protecting my identity?
It feel like it’s a handy way for the DMV simply to keep itself busy. Well, there’s plenty enough that it has to do. Couldn’t this be made easier?
Even further down, there’s this:
You will be issued an interim license valid for 60 days and/or a receipt for your ID card until you receive your new photo license and/or photo ID card in the mail. Check your address before you leave DMV and tell the DMV representative if your address is incorrect.
If you’ve never seen one of these, it’s just a piece of paper that says you can drive, no picture, no thumbprint, etc. So here’s another thought. Since appointments take over a month now, why not let people order interim licenses online? You can’t use them for identification. But they do serve to allow you to drive legally until you wait for an appointment to go in.
Anyway, off to the DMV next week 🙂
Postscript (Jan. 19, 2011): See California DMV Struggling To Issue Driver’s Licenses, which includes a number to call, if you’re still waiting.