Wait times at the DMV have become a discussion topic over the past several months as it has been known to take several hours to get your driver’s license at some locations. Naturally, the immediate reaction is that we need to increase the size of the staff and/ or increase their pay.
But we can modernize the process of obtaining or renewing your driver’s license thanks to technology. But that will require innovation. And likely privatization.
There once was a time when the process of renting a movie consisted of going to a video rental store, selecting the video you’d like, and bringing the empty box to the cashier who would then give you your selection. Depending on the time of day, a store may or may not have been open, and, if it was, you may or may not have had to wait in line. If it was a Friday night, you probably did.
Then innovation happened. As it always does in the private sector. Netflix, in its original form, delivered movies to your home and Redbox set up self-service kiosks outside of various businesses throughout the country. Before long, Blockbuster was gone and the once thriving, store-based video rental business is a thing of the past.
Which brings us to the Department of Motor Vehicles and the process of getting a driver’s license in the state of Mississippi.
There has been a great deal of attention to the long wait lines at DMVs in the metro Jackson area and elsewhere. Department of Public Safety Commissioner Marshall Fisher was questioned about this at a hearing in January. Higher pay for examiners was brought up, as were appointment systems. But that just skims over the larger issue.
DMVs need to be brought into the 21st century, but there is little vision to make that happen.
We have a limited number of kiosks inside the DMV and you can renew your license online if your address has not changed. That needs to be expanded. And that also presumes the kiosk is working.
Instead of a kiosk that is limited and only open when the DMV is open, we can put Redbox style kiosks outside of city halls or county courthouses, based on demand. They would be accessible 24 hours a day and could serve a variety of functions.
Renewing your license with no changes is easy, but we can do much more today. These kiosks have technology to read documents containing your new address. If you moved from out of state, they can quickly confirm your current license from that state. If your license is suspended or you owe back fees, the kiosk will recognize that. If you are getting a license for the first time, they will be able to serve you. You could even take your exam at the kiosk. They can take pictures. They can do vision exams. They can accept cash, checks, or credit cards.
We would just need a limited number of examiners to respond to the times the computers couldn’t read an address, or a similar incident.
Simply because the government is failing to do something efficiently does not mean we should enlarge the government. And hope they do it better. Because this is a problem at DMVs across the country, whether you’re in Mississippi or states where government employees make significantly more.
There is no incentive or motivation to innovate. All of these ideas are closer than we may think, or expect. And for the person who has to take a day off from work to get a new license, they sound pretty good.