REAL Nightmare

Source: Ellen Perlman, Governing, Vol. 20 no. 9, June 2007

States are on the hook to turn driver’s licenses into secure ID cards. The size of the job is scaring them.

For the past five years, clerks at the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles have been enforcing new rules for getting a driver’s license. It hasn’t been pleasant. As the new system has been put in place — a new requirement here, followed by another one there — DMV employees have been dressed down, yelled at, spat on and cursed by those in line.

This is not the usual situation at today’s DMVs, because states have gone to great efforts in the past decade to make license renewal a friendlier, more convenient experience — letting drivers renew online or by mail; putting small DMV offices in local shopping malls. But there’s a reason why Colorado clerks are under fire: The new rules, which have to do with creating a more secure license, have brought back long lines and frustrating misunderstandings about just exactly what documents drivers need to bring in and how long it will take the DMV to verify those papers. That’s why Colorado, which established its own rules for securing licenses, may be the best place to look to see what it’s going to be like when the REAL ID Act, the 2005 federal law that calls for a higher level of security for driver’s licenses, starts going into effect next year.

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