The waiting line at the District’s Department of Motor Vehicles is long -- really long. In fact, it stretches into October.
Standing outside D.C.’s one-and-only location where residents can take the road test to get their driver’s license, you’ll find lots of people with the same story. They’ve all been waiting months to take the road test and get a license -- between three and six months depending upon whom you ask. Soon those people will be able to pay and avoid the long wait.
The long wait has been stressful and not having a driver’s license over the summer break has made it tough to get a job, Montell Sewell said.
“It’s been about six months,” Sewell said. “They said there hasn’t been an opening, so I had to wait till six months.”
Antoinette Greene has been driving for more than a decade but allowed her license to expire for more than 180 days, so she has to take the test again. She waited three months for an appointment to take the road test.
“Ninety days is terrible. People who have taken the written test, they’re going to forget some of the laws and things they learned in the book,” Greene told News4 as she waited outside the DMV. “I think it’s outrageous. They have the money to employee people for this. This is crazy.”
According to Lucinda Babers, the Director of the District’s DMV, a number of factors led to the backlog, which she said is currently three months. According to Babers, the District only has five driver examiners who administer the test. Two of those inspectors have been on sick leave. Timing is also an issue, Babers said.
“Right now, we happen to also have the summertime,” Babers said. “Whenever the summertime comes, those three or four months are our busiest.”
Relief is on the way, Babers said. The agency plans to increase the number of examiners to seven, and Babers is beginning the process of authorizing private driving instructors to administer the road test.
“The first individual who will be certified to do that should be ready to start going by the end of this week,” Babers said. “They of course will have the ability to charge up to $100. We don’t know what he will charge.”
Two other private instructors are in the process of being certified, Babers said.
The District administers about 7,600 road tests each year, Babers said, but she has a plan to reduce that number. In the past drivers who allowed their license to expire for more than 90 days had to retake the written knowledge test. Now drivers won’t have to retake that test unless their licenses have been expired 360 days. As for the road test, drivers who had let their license expire for more than 180 days had to retake the road test. Now that time limit has been extended to 545 days.
Babers also pointed out that there are road test cancelations every day, so anyone on the waitlist can check in daily to see if an appointment opens up.
The District isn’t the only DMV in our region that keeps people waiting to take the road test, but it does have the longest wait by far. According to the Maryland Motor Vehicles Administration, the wait to take the road test is between one day and one month depending on which of the state’s 18 locations you choose. Gaithersburg has the longest wait, but the wait at the Beltsville location is only about a week.
A spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Motor vehicles said there is no waiting in the commonwealth.
“You don’t have to sign up and there is no wait list. When you come into an office to apply for your driver’s license a DMV examiner will administer the road test a part of your transaction,” Sunni Brown said.
Virginia also allows residents to take the road test through a private instructor.
The District hopes to have the backlog cleared up within a month. Babers said her target for an acceptable waiting period for a road test appointment is two-to-three weeks.
As for Montel Sewell, he points out the long wait just adds more pressure once you do get to take the test.
“I’m hoping I pass it this time so I don’t have to wait this long,” he said. “Because I know they said the next time would be in another three or four months, so I better pass it.”
Follow Mark Segraves on Twitter at @SegravesNBC4