Thoughts from a Trip to a Georgia DMV

After losing my license, I had to wait for more than three hours to get it replaced, giving me plenty of time to focus on the negative aspects of the state's Department of Driver Services.

Why should you have to hate going to the DMV? Why should you concede that before you go, there’s a good chance there will be long lines, and when you get to the front, you might not have what the law requires to get your driver’s license?

I lost my license a couple weeks ago (I’m very, very lucky my head, feet and fingers are attached). My first step was to call the Georgia Department of Driver Services to see what I would need to bring in; the two people I talked to told me different things.

This confusion seemed to stem from the July 1 law change in renewing or reinstating Georgia driver’s licenses. In most general cases, drivers must take care of things in person instead of online and must present a form of ID, proof of Social Security number, and two papers proving address.

Just to be safe, I took all possible documentation I could round up.

For convenience, I have used my aunt’s Woodstock address since I moved to the Peach State in late 2010, so I drove to the Cherokee County location in Canton. I went the day after the Fourth of July and got there 30 minutes before it closed at 6 p.m., giving thanks that I just made it. 

Unfortunately, they stopped handing out numbers at 2 p.m., meaning the 20 or so people still waiting that evening had been there since the early to mid-afternoon.

On the website, it offered the hours but nothing saying that the center might stop helping new customers before the close time because of busyness. But now, the site says in red writing:

“Customer Service Centers experiencing high customer volumes may discontinue accepting customers prior to the posted time of closing. However, all pre-scheduled reservations will be honored. Please keep in mind that traditionally, Tuesdays and Saturdays are the busiest days of operation. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

To beat the rush when I returned one day earlier this week, I got there 20 minutes before it opened at 8 a.m. To my dismay, the line was already wrapped around the building, and I didn’t get out until shortly before noon.

While there, I saw much frustration, most notably a woman who was turned away because she didn’t bring her marriage license proving her name change. It was nice, though, to see someone standing at the front of the initial line, letting people know if they had everything they needed before they waiting for hours in the seating area.

During my hours-long wait, I began to recall all the government waste I’ve witnessed and read about over the years—sky-high amounts that would more than take care of the pay for some additional part-time help. There was, after all, 10 or so empty service booths to stick a couple more employees in.

Besides the aforementioned document checker, there were only five staff members helping customers. While Georgia drivers can go to any center in the state—something I didn't realize until afterwards—they're assumably going to head to the one closest to them or the one in their home county. So for all of Cherokee County, that's only one center and only five DMV workers.

I began to think of all the time Georgians waste at the DMV and how that hurts the productivity of the state as a whole. It seems like the state government could do something to streamline the process to make it more time efficient. 

Such an effort would be beneficial to the public sector, because that’s time that could be used for spending, thus generating sales tax, or used to build up businesses, again bringing in more taxes.

I began to think of how many citizens rally behind stricter identification laws while they simultaneously create a bigger burden for those legally in the country. I’m not saying that such laws are necessarily a bad thing, but something to consider when instituting them is the possibility of jeopardizing our own ways and freedoms.

But enough about my thoughts and experiences—I want to hear from you (feel free to agree or disagree with anything I’ve said).

Maybe you had a good experience at the DMV last time and were in and out in less than an hour? Maybe you could let everyone know where this quick location is? Maybe you believe the Georgia Department of Driver Services is efficient as a whole and doing everything it can to protect the legal drivers and taxpayers?

Whatever your opinions or stories are, share them in the comments below.

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Cady Schulman July 13, 2012 at 04:30 PM
It's hit or miss in Cartersville. Our office is really small, so if it's busy, there isn't even room to sit and people have to wait outside. I use as many online services as possible to avoid going there.
George Carte' July 13, 2012 at 05:54 PM
In Alaska the DMV charges $10 extra for using their offices unless a visit is necessary such as taking driver's test and getting picture ID. For example vehicle reregistration is mailed a couple months before due, with a postage paid return envelope. Fill in necessary blanks, and a check and your tags come back by mail in a few days. There are also live webcams showing the waiting rooms of all DMV in the State. What used to be an hour or two wait became 15 or 20 minutes.
Michael Stone July 13, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Hey Bobby, I also found that out after I visited the center, unfortunately.
Tea Man July 16, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Michael, It appears to be a rite of passage when you move to GA. You must go through this hassel! When we moved here 20+ years ago it was a 4-6 hour wait and you learned from the folks in line what the requirements were. Since then, they have updated the systems, upgraded the facilities and have cooperative agreements with other states on violations, etc. However, it appears the service hasn't improved much. I like the Alaska way, videofeed of every office to HQ and watch the service get better!
Pam J July 31, 2012 at 03:56 PM
I honestly think that if you plan far enough ahead that you should be able to make a reservation. That way, hopefully the wait would be an hour or less. Of course, that would be too simple. So when I have to have my license renewed, I am going to go on a road trip and find an office that isn't too busy and maybe do some shopping along the way. Another thing, if you get a number when you go in and you know it's going to be two or three hours before you are helped, go out to eat or go home for a couple of hours. We try to make everything as difficult as possible.


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