Thoughts from a Trip to a Georgia DMV

After losing my license, I had to wait for more than three hours to get it replaced, giving me plenty of time to focus on the negative aspects of the state's Department of Driver Services.

Why should you have to hate going to the DMV? Why should you concede that before you go, there’s a good chance there will be long lines, and when you get to the front, you might not have what the law requires to get your driver’s license?

I lost my license a couple weeks ago (I’m very, very lucky my head, feet and fingers are attached). My first step was to call the Georgia Department of Driver Services to see what I would need to bring in; the two people I talked to told me different things.

This confusion seemed to stem from the July 1 law change in renewing or reinstating Georgia driver’s licenses. In most general cases, drivers must take care of things in person instead of online and must present a form of ID, proof of Social Security number, and two papers proving address.

Just to be safe, I took all possible documentation I could round up.

For convenience, I have used my aunt’s Woodstock address since I moved to the Peach State in late 2010, so I drove to the Cherokee County location in Canton. I went the day after the Fourth of July and got there 30 minutes before it closed at 6 p.m., giving thanks that I just made it. 

Unfortunately, they stopped handing out numbers at 2 p.m., meaning the 20 or so people still waiting that evening had been there since the early to mid-afternoon.

On the website, it offered the hours but nothing saying that the center might stop helping new customers before the close time because of busyness. But now, the site says in red writing:

“Customer Service Centers experiencing high customer volumes may discontinue accepting customers prior to the posted time of closing. However, all pre-scheduled reservations will be honored. Please keep in mind that traditionally, Tuesdays and Saturdays are the busiest days of operation. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

To beat the rush when I returned one day earlier this week, I got there 20 minutes before it opened at 8 a.m. To my dismay, the line was already wrapped around the building, and I didn’t get out until shortly before noon.

While there, I saw much frustration, most notably a woman who was turned away because she didn’t bring her marriage license proving her name change. It was nice, though, to see someone standing at the front of the initial line, letting people know if they had everything they needed before they waiting for hours in the seating area.

During my hours-long wait, I began to recall all the government waste I’ve witnessed and read about over the years—sky-high amounts that would more than take care of the pay for some additional part-time help. There was, after all, 10 or so empty service booths to stick a couple more employees in.

Besides the aforementioned document checker, there were only five staff members helping customers. While Georgia drivers can go to any center in the state—something I didn't realize until afterwards—they're assumably going to head to the one closest to them or the one in their home county. So for all of Cherokee County, that's only one center and only five DMV workers.

I began to think of all the time Georgians waste at the DMV and how that hurts the productivity of the state as a whole. It seems like the state government could do something to streamline the process to make it more time efficient. 

Such an effort would be beneficial to the public sector, because that’s time that could be used for spending, thus generating sales tax, or used to build up businesses, again bringing in more taxes.

I began to think of how many citizens rally behind stricter identification laws while they simultaneously create a bigger burden for those legally in the country. I’m not saying that such laws are necessarily a bad thing, but something to consider when instituting them is the possibility of jeopardizing our own ways and freedoms.

But enough about my thoughts and experiences—I want to hear from you (feel free to agree or disagree with anything I’ve said).

Maybe you had a good experience at the DMV last time and were in and out in less than an hour? Maybe you could let everyone know where this quick location is? Maybe you believe the Georgia Department of Driver Services is efficient as a whole and doing everything it can to protect the legal drivers and taxpayers?

Whatever your opinions or stories are, share them in the comments below.


M. Stone July 14, 2012 at 12:30 PM
This is another good reminder that whenever dealing with the government, we must remember that customer service is not the government's goal. It may ostensibly be touted as the government's goal, but it is not. the government is a self-insulated monopoly. The government does not have to please customers to stay in business, whether at the DMV, or the post office, or in doling out Obamacare. "Reforms" for efficiency or anything else will never equal the responsiveness and innovation and swiftness found in the free market, where suppliers do need to please customers to beat competitors and stay in business. So, take a book, and expect to be treated like a cypher. And remember, the less government we have to deal with in life, the better.
your own luck July 14, 2012 at 12:42 PM
Even though this change was mandated by Homeland Security, and was only being carried out by the state of Georgia to be in compliance, I wonder if any of our state representatives ever have to stand in a line like this for hours to renew their licenses. Somehow, I think not.
Michelle Sollicito July 14, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Most dmvs now allow you to renew your drivers license online. If everyone did this it would reduce wait lines considerably. Also see http://cobbvoter.spruz.com for details of how to get a voter id if you cannot get a driver's license, allowing you to vote. The site also tells you how to register to vote and other useful information
Independent Thinking July 14, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Here's the interesting part: the DMV was allowed to hire a few additional workers this year when every other state agency lost staff. Georgia politicians brag about being the "most fiscally conservative state in the nation." What they don't tell us is that there's a price for making government smaller -- our time. Remember that in November.
Beth Hargrave July 14, 2012 at 01:41 PM
After being with my daughter to get her license in the last year or so, I was impressed by the North Cobb DDS on Piedmont. Each time we went, the lines seemed smaller and the customer service was better. I'm hoping that the current wait times are only due to the security changes and that things will get back to normal soon.
M Zeller July 14, 2012 at 02:02 PM
The additional waits were caused by the new requirements for "secure" ID. The state has known about the requirements for a long time. Before this, yes, you could renew your license online. This change, however, eliminates that opportunity for ANYONE renewing a license for at least the next 4 years. If the DDS was not a government entity, its manager would have seen/expected an increase in traffic and staffed to accommodate the MANDATED increased traffic. But, as the point was made above, government has little concern about efficiency, much less customer service. So, even if you have all of your documents in order, just expect the extra tax (your time) the next time you renew or have other need to visit a DDS office.
Susanne Muckerman July 14, 2012 at 06:32 PM
That branch ROCKS! and they have a desk in the front that tells you if you have all of your stuff BEFORE you wait two hours.
Michelle Sollicito July 15, 2012 at 03:04 AM
It is possible to renew online assuming the dmv has your fingerprints,photo and digital signature on file - which it does have for most people who have had a license in the past two years I believe. Not sure about before that.


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