Folks have been calling me for help getting their driver licenses recently. Federal mandates related to the Real ID Act have increased the complexity and time of every driver license transaction.
A result of the 9/11 Commission recommendation, the federal Real ID Act includes the Driver License Security Program. It created national standards for the issuance of state driver licenses and identification cards. The intent is to help prevent terrorism, reduce fraud, and improve the reliability and accuracy of personal identification documents.
In practice, the new law makes it extremely difficult for some people to obtain or renew their license.
All card holders now must re-verify their identity with the state. Drivers must gather and present all their identification documents in person, which may more than double the length of time they spend at driver license offices.
The process can be especially difficult for divorced and widowed women, who must provide documentation for all name changes. One of the calls came from a lady who had been widowed and remarried three times and needed my help. She was stressed by the process of locating old death certificates and marriage licenses, some of which were out-of-state, to prove her name changes through the years.
And she was merely renewing her current Texas license.
Please review the new identification requirements online before you go to the Department of Public Safety (DPS) office. If you are prepared the first time, you won't have to return and wait in line again. The requirements may be found online at .
We are close to reducing the long lines at DPS license offices. Last year the Texas Legislature provided DPS with an additional $63 million to open six megacenters, hire 266 additional employees, and purchase equipment and technology to improve customer service and efficiency of the driver license system.
Two of the megacenters, located in Austin and San Antonio, are scheduled to open in January 2013. In the meantime, DPS has taken other measures to improve service.
Queuing systems and online scheduling for road tests were installed in the 59 busiest driver license offices. Automated testing systems were installed in all offices.
Delivery time for licenses has been shortened from 45 days to 10 days. Facilities that were ill-suited for public use have been upgraded.
The Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee on which I serve requested the DPS to examine the resources needed for the Driver License Division to provide better service to Texans.
The committee requested that the division review costs of remaining open on Saturdays, increasing office hours two nights a week, and allowing the private sector to conduct driving tests.
Improved services will require additional money for manpower and technology. I hope that the Texas Legislature will continue to address these issues when it convenes in January 2013.
This column was written by State Sen. Jeff Wentworth.