Q&A – South Florida Driver’s License Services By Appointment Only
Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods.
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Today’s entry: Having the ability to carry an electronic version of a D/L is wonderful but the real issue that no one has addressed is the inability to obtain or renew one. Miami Dade and Broward counties are among a handful that do not provide D/L services thru the Tax Collectors office. Citizens are left with the only option of going to DMV which always has long lines and restricted service.
The latest insult is you can no longer go to a DMV location as a walk-in (see below). You must make an appointment by calling in to a number which is always busy and if by chance you get thru the appointments are scheduled for weeks or months away.
Please inquire why our Tax Collectors which already provide walk-in tag and title service do not provide drivers license services for the respective counties residents. Every other county in the State provides it and the fact that ours do not is an unfair and unnecessary burden.
Bottom Line: This note is on back of my recent Q&A regarding Florida’s soon-to-be rolled out digital driver's license and this week’s change in DMV procedures in the four counties which don’t handle all driver’s license services through the tax collector's offices – Broward, Leon, Miami-Dade and Volusia counties. As you mentioned, as of Monday, driver’s license services in those counties are now by appointment only. Now, this is where there’s a wrinkle to your inquiry. While driver’s license services are handled by tax collectors in all other counties... You’ll not find the process to be different. In fact, it’s the model of tax collectors across the state that ultimately led to the state-run centers going to the appointment only model.
Starting in the earliest weeks of the pandemic tax collectors across the state began to implement appointment only based services. This includes neighboring counties to Broward and Miami-Dade – Monroe and Palm Beach which have been using the appointment only model since last year. I covered this in March, because I found myself in a circumstance which I learned many Floridians were struggling with when I shared my experience. I received a notice that my driver’s license would soon expire and I needed to renew in person. When I looked up the information to make an appointment in Palm Beach County, the soonest appointment I was able to make was ironically the day after my license was to expire. In the end there wasn’t any drama and despite my license having expired the day before the office was understanding and renewed my license without issue or a penalty. But based on that experience I shared the following:
- 3 weeks: That’s the average length of time it takes to obtain a DMV appointment
- Expiration penalties: In addition to the risks of driving on an expired license, you can be subjected to additional fees for allowing your license to expire when you go to renew
- Retest: If your license is expired for a year or longer you now have to retest to obtain a driver’s license
I also pointed out that you can renew a license up to 18 months in advance of it expiring and it’s worth renewing well in advance of the expiration date because of the appointment only scheduling and high demand for services. So, what’s happening this week in Broward and Miami-Dade isn’t new and isn’t a result of the DMV services not being offered through the tax collectors. In fact, if they were this almost certainly would have happened much sooner. The initial reason cited for the change was safety, in the name of social distancing due to the virus. While that’s still used as justification, what’s become clear is that whether it’s tax collectors or now the state, they’re trying to retrain us to create greater efficiency. This was the crux of this statement by the FHSMV to the Miami Herald when they sought comment on the change: Most driver license and motor vehicle services can be completed online, and the department has expanded the services available online in the last year to better meet customers’ needs.
It’s true that most people who’ve traditionally shown up and waited in long lines for services at DMV’s are able to have their needs met online as opposed to going to the office. By pushing everyone through the online appointment system, those who’re able to handle their business online are made aware, greatly reducing the demand and lines at the local offices. Likewise, if you must report in person, the portal lets you know and directs you to make an appointment.
While frustrating for those like you and me who’ve needed to go to an office for services, it’s a system that’s more efficient for most independent of the pandemic. A lot of businesses and organizations have realized efficiencies brought about by need during the pandemic. This has turned out to be one of them. I don’t anticipate this will change even after the conclusion of whenever, whoever declares and end to it.