Stop and check your driver’s license. If it expires within three months, get in line now. Seriously.
While working on my income tax recently, I came upon a note to verify my driver’s license. I was shocked to learn it had expired five months ago. In other words, I was driving without a license since last summer.
Never mind that I did not receive a notification from the Department of Motor Vehicles. Those days are over. Amazingly, neither I nor anyone else inspecting my driver’s license to fly or cash a check or make a bank deposit noticed it was expired either.
As recent as four years ago, the DMV mailed renewal notices to licensed drivers. Not anymore. Somehow I missed the memo about that change.
Realizing my luck could run out any time, I hurried over to the driver’s license office in Newton. The bad news: it was a Friday afternoon. The waiting room was full and running over. By 4:30 the officials cleared the waiting room because they could not accommodate more customers. I’d just wasted an hour and a half.
That next Monday was no different. As near as I could tell, there were only two examiners in the Newton office. Maybe it was an off day. Maybe someone had called in sick or was on vacation. I would suggest that, but I know better. Two people may well be full staffing.
I’m not complaining about the folks who work there. They were pleasant given the stress of the situation. It’s not their fault that there aren’t enough employees.
At the same time, I offer a warning to any North Carolinian who drives, which is most adults. You’re on your own to keep track of when your license expires. If you need to renew or take a driving test for any reason, get an appointment and be prepared to for a long wait.
Fortunately some DMV business can be done on-line at www.ncdot.gov. Check to be sure.
As of late January, the DMV wait was mid-March for the Newton office and April for Hickory. So do your homework. If your license expires in June and you are required to take a road test, now’s the time to seek an appointment. And be willing to shop around. The line might be shorter in another town or county.
When you enter the office, you must “sign in” by scanning a QR code or texting the number shown on a poster at the door. Bring a good book, crossword puzzles or some knitting and be prepared to wait.
I’m glad to say that after three hours that Monday I managed to speak with a license examiner.
I’d heard all the hype about REAL ID, so I came prepared. I brought my passport, birth certificate, my expired license and whatever else I could think of. In fact, all I needed was my passport and my old license. And yes, I was able to get a REAL ID, though Congress has been kicking that can down the road for years. For now, the deadline has been moved from May 3, 2023 to May 7, 2025.
Grumbling to a friend from Concord recently, she told me my three-hour wait at the DMV was nothing. She knows people who have waited six hours in Cabarrus County. I wanted to feel lucky, but I didn’t.
I’m gratified to see that the NC DMV is working on improving the wait times, such as hiring more examiners and assigning customers to offices where there is appointment availability. Establishing road test teams so staff won’t have to leave desks in order to perform road tests.
Sounds like a plan, but I see on the DMV website that they’ve been working on this since 2018.
---Tammy Wilson is a writer who lives near Newton. Contact her at [email protected]