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Surprise: SC's online DMV works just fine!
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report



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AUG. 3, 2003 - - Last summer when lines at the Division of Motor Vehicles easily could be an hour and a half, it was easy to wonder whether the DMV would ever get its act together.

Now, it seems the new DMV - - now called the Department of Motor Vehicles - - has become something other than The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight.

These days, lines average about 15 minutes across the state, DMV spokesperson Beth Parks says. And in 39 of the DMV's 68 offices, there are Wal-Mart-like greeters who help customers ensure they have the necessary paperwork and materials before they stand in line.

Additionally, Parks says DMV clerks are more comfortable and confident about using the new computer system installed last summer. Its glitches have been worked through and it's now operating smoothly.

But if anyone last year would have suggested the DMV would be able to implement a trouble-free online component for issuing drivers' licenses, they would have been laughed out of the state.

But it has happened.

Three weeks ago, I got a notice in the mail that said I could avoid all lines at the DMV by renewing my license online:

"You are eligible to renew your driver's license using DMV's online service or by mail if you are a United State citizen, you do not have more than five points in the last two years against your driving record, and your license is not suspended, cancelled or revoked," the letter said.

It invited me to use the department's Web site - - Quite frankly, I didn't expect it to work.

At 10:15 p.m. on a Sunday night, I visited the site and went to the "online service sites" area. In less than five minutes, I followed the instructions, entered a credit card number, clicked some buttons and learned that the $12.50 transaction was successful.

Even though the confirmation message said I would get a new license by mail, I still expected something to go wrong.

It didn't. The new license showed up in Thursday's mail. In less than 80 hours, the DMV processed my request, made the license, put it in the mail and I received it. And I didn't have to stand in any line.

Rhonda Thompson, who runs the DMV office that processes online and mail-in driver's license renewals, said most people expect to get the license in about two weeks. But because her office has no backlog, transactions are processed immediately.

These days, the DMV is getting a lot of positive feedback on its new system. Thompson said people send e-mails that say things like, "Wow, this was easy" and "I'm starting to chant, 'No more visits to the DMV!'"

In the first month of operation of the online system, Thompson's office processed 4,190 driver's license renewals. That's as many as a single busy office does in a month, Parks noted.

The DMV's online office also allows users pay to renew identification cards, pay reinstatement fees and complete a license tag registration renewals. And for free, drivers can check the points they have on their records or change their address.

"It's been very successful," Parks said. "We were at first surprised at the number of people who have used the system. We didn't expect to see as many renewals as we are seeing.

"With our history, anytime you get anything more than you thought, you're thrilled."

Final note: After we talked, Parks took her 15-year-old daughter to get a learner's driving permit. So while online government is improving every day, there are still some things for which you may have to stand in line!

Cats' meows on taxes

Thought you might want to see this week's cartoon effort by our Bill McLemore:


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