California

Mounting Frustration as Californians Attempt to Renew Driver Licenses and Registrations Online During COVID-19 Crisis

NBC Universal, Inc.

Some Californians trying to renew driver licenses and car registrations online say the Department of Motor Vehicles is shutting them out, an NBC4 I-Team investigation has found.

Two weeks ago, the DMV closed its 176 field offices across the state to the public, in the wake of an I-Team report that those often crowded offices might be breeding grounds for the coronavirus. An internal memo obtained by the I-Team says there have now been 15 cases of COVID-19 in the DMV.

At the time, the DMV promised to expand its "virtual field office" so people could renew licenses and registrations from their homes.

With both driver’s licenses and vehicle registration being much-needed services, customers like Rob Baker are navigating a website that is not fulfilling their online requests. And while Baker and others like him are being left in the dark about the fate of their license renewals, DMV employees are waiting to be trained to provide online services. 

“They were wrong,” Rob Baker told the NBC4 I-Team after he tried to renew his soon-to-expire license but couldn't. “I feel like I was lied to actually.”

Baker says under DMV rules, he should've been able to renew his license because he had a clean driving record for years. But when he tried to renew on the "virtual field office," he was met with a screen that read, “You are not eligible for internet renewal.”

“They didn’t really do anything to their website other than put up a new front door,” he said. “They didn’t remodel anything inside.” 

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On the DMV’s Facebook page, customers are posting similar complaints. 

“Can’t renew licenses online yet,” a user wrote. “This is insane … does anyone maintain this site,” another commented. 

DMV employees at five offices have told NBC4 they were supposed to receive training to process online transactions, but haven't yet.

“We’re not doing virtual transactions,” one employee texted the I-Team. “We still aren’t set up to do them.” 

Baker is worried about not having a current driver license, because he's out of work and might be applying for benefits which often requires a valid ID.

“You never know when you’re going to need one,” he said. 

The I-Team reached out to the DMV for an interview about possible glitches with its virtual field office, but the department did not immediately respond to the request. 

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