If you’re waiting for your new, counterfeit-proof driver’s license, the DMV says the wait is getting shorter. Apply today and you’ll have one in a month. Really, it insists.
But it’s hard not to be skeptical about that promise, especially when last fall DMV officials insisted the problem was just a glitch that would be fixed within just a few weeks. And then there are the horror stories shared by Road Warrior readers.
DMV spokeswoman Jan Mendoza said the delays result from the manufacturing company having a tough time getting the cards’ sophisticated security features absolutely perfect. And the DMV won’t accept any licenses unless they’re 100 percent accurate and is withholding any payment of the $65 million contract until the problems are fixed, she said.
The new California driver’s license is the “most complex” of any in the U.S., she said.
The new features include the driver’s date of birth and signature in raised lettering that can be felt by touch, a photo of the driver that can be seen only with ultraviolet light, a bar code on the back of the license that replicates and verifies the information on the front of the card (similar to the current magnetic strip) and a laser perforation outline of the California brown bear that can be seen on the license only when a flashlight is pressed against the back of the license. The changes also raised the cost of producing each license to $1.31 from the old version’s 64 cents, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Mendoza said DMV workers do spot checks of batches of new licenses and reject an entire batch if such things as the coloring, alignment, symbols and photos aren’t right. She said 2.5 million licenses have been made since October and about 10 percent have had errors. That means at least 250,000 people have had to wait for their licenses.
She said DMV officials have had discussions with the company, L-1 Identity Solutions of Stamford, Conn., about the problems and delays. She said the licenses actually are made at a L-1 Identity Solutions plant in Sacramento, but she didn’t know if any DMV officials have gone to the plant to check the manufacturing process. She said the company is the only one in the nation that makes drivers’ licenses, and it made the previous version of the California license.
A call to the company’s headquarters requesting comment wasn’t returned. The company has turned down inquiries from other media.
If you’ve been waiting awhile for your new license, Mendoza said you should call the DMV at 1-800-777-0133 and once you get a representative on the phone, tell him/her of the delay and they’ll transfer you to a DMV worker who will have “a better idea” of where your license is in the process and, if necessary, will expedite a temporary license for you.
The Road Warrior called that number and the recording said the wait time for a license was six weeks. To get a representative, we had to say “technician” when the recording asked what we wanted. That got us transferred to a representative, but the wait time was 30 minutes.
DMV spokesman Armando Botello said he didn’t know if the 30-minute wait was typical but said going to a DMV office to get help probably would take longer than that.