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Law lengthens lines for license

POSTED: July 8, 2012 10:00 a.m.
Jim Dean/

For Melodie Parola and her daughter, Jessica, the wait was about six hours at the Department of Driver Services.

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The suggestion box at the Department of Driver Services in Cumming was getting some use last week.

“The longer we sit here, the longer the suggestion list gets,” said Debbie Merck, who waited more than five hours Tuesday to replace a lost license.

It was nearly six hours for Melodie Parola and daughter Jessica. And even longer for her husband, Joe, who was still waiting to renew his license when they left the facility off Pilgrim Mill Road near Ga. 400 at Exit 16.

“It’s very frustrating,” said Melodie Parola.

Drivers have come to expect to wait at the services center, but Tuesday was exceptionally long, since it was the first day of a new state law requiring a birth certificate and Social Security card for all those seeking a license, even a renewal.

It was one of many new state laws, but perhaps the most noticeable, that went into effect July 1.

That timing was particularly challenging for the department. The center is closed on Mondays, and Wednesday was the Fourth of July holiday.

“We do have extremely high demand, so the wait times aren’t where we’d like them to be of course,” said Susan Sports, department spokeswoman. “But as far as the system working, it’s been working.

“We certainly look forward to getting past this holiday week where we can have a better grasp of the process and the changes and how it’s affecting our customer flow.”

Last week, some drivers arrived unprepared and were directed to return after getting all the documents required under the new law.

After three hours of waiting, however, coming prepared didn’t make a difference for Gina Donofrio and fiancé Joshua Doerfler.

By 3:30 p.m., the two were just hoping they wouldn’t have to go back to the Cumming facility Thursday.

Donofrio happened to have seen the new law on television and made sure her fiancé came prepared to renew his license.

“We had to stop by his parents’ house to get his birth certificate,” said Donofrio, who hoped the long waits are handled before she returns to change her last name after the two are married.

Doerfler wasn’t sure why the extra security measure was needed.

“I understand the two proofs of residency, but I don’t understand why you have to have your birth certificate and your Social Security card when you already have your license,” he said.

The new policy, dubbed Secure ID, offers additional protection from identity theft, said Gov. Nathan Deal when he signed the bill into law.

For someone getting a license for the first time, the policy hasn’t changed. The difference lies with the renewals.

Instead of being able to renew online, or bringing an old license and proof of residency, a proof of identity, specifically a birth certificate and proof of Social Security are also required.

The good news, Sports said, is once someone has a new, Secure ID, they can continue to renew online, as in the past.

“It’s a one-time deal,” she said.

But that one time likely won’t be quick.

In June 2011, the most current statistic Sports could offer, the average wait time was less than 20 minutes, with 81 percent of people served within 30 minutes.

It took six hours for two of the Parolas just to change their addresses. And because they didn’t have all the proper documentation, they couldn’t get a Secure driver’s license.

That means when it’s time to renew, they’ll have to go back and wait again.

Joe Parola needed to renew his license Tuesday. After six hours, he still was trying to use his tablet to download the needed documents.

Donofrio said she was mostly frustrated that just five of the 12 windows were open when the line was backed up to the entrance.

“They should have anticipated this and planned accordingly, especially when it goes into effect on a holiday weekend,” she said.

 

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