Seventeen-year-old Kristen Brown registered for her state driving test in May on the Motor Vehicle Commission website. Its agencies had closed the month before due to the COVID-19 lockdown. She’s thrilled that testing starts up again June 29, but the Verona teen’s now buried somewhere in a backlog of 60,000 people waiting to reschedule appointments for regular and commercial driver’s licenses.
“They said that it will take up to 60 days for them to catch up, so I really have no sense if I’m going to get my license July 1 or August 28. It’s kind of hard to plan ahead for stuff like rides to work and everything,” Kristen said.
“A lot of these kids, including my daughter, have summer jobs so they need their license. They need their license, and I think the lack of communication — it’s been across the board with everything they’re reopening,” said Kristen’s mother, Jodi Brown.
Motor Vehicle Commission Chief Administrator Brenda Sue Fulton says the MVC added capacity for 10,500 additional driving tests per week aimed solely at clearing the backlog. But even special appointments are first-come, first-served.
“For those people whose road tests have been cancelled, they will be getting a notice in the mail that sends them to a special appointment system,” Fulton said. “We’re going to encourage people to make their appointment as quickly as they can. We’re going to clear the backlog as quickly as we can. Road testing is a difficult challenge; you are putting people inside the cab of a vehicle together.”
You really can’t social distance in a car during a driving test so all of the windows will be down and everyone will have a mask. The examiner will also be wearing goggles. The agency says it has added 100 extra examiners and 11 more driving courses just to handle the backlog.
Motor Vehicle employees will report to work this week to set up a phased reopening that starts with drop-off and pick-up transactions only next Monday.
“Dealers will be dropping off registration and title transactions, they’ll be dropping off salvage titles. Customers can drop off license plates and driving schools will drop off permits,” Fulton said.
A full return to walk-in service starts June 29, but it won’t be the MVC you last saw in March.
“We have lowered the customer capacity inside these facilities to make sure that there’s social distancing inside. We can’t have the crowds of people inside and the crowds of people outside that we had prior to COVID,” Fulton said.
To help streamline matters, Fulton divided agencies into 23 licensing centers — which will require IDs, documents and photos — and 16 vehicle centers — responsible for license plates and bulk dealer work. They’re all listed on the MVC website.
Brown’s a community pool lifeguard so she’s hoping to salvage both her summer job and her license. But her mom fears the system will get overwhelmed.
“When that link opens, 60,000 people are trying to reschedule and then it crashes again, you know what I mean? You don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said.
The agency’s hoping to steer around such obstacles.