It has been an even longer, hotter summer than usual for the people at Mississippi’s driver’s license offices.
First, the offices are handling more people wanting to renew licenses, to get a license for the first time after moving to the state or to get a passport or a firearms permit or just a photo ID for voting or a new job. Second, it’s crunch time for the Real ID Act. Beginning last January, anyone who did not have a Real ID compliant identification could not board a flight in the United States, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Mississippi is compliant and if you have a license or ID,it can be used until it expires or January 2020.
Real ID also requires the Highway Patrol to gather more information as licenses are processed. That takes extra time and slows the computer system down.
“Just the new regulations that are in place, there is so much more information that has to be input into the computer,” said Public Affairs Director Johnny Poulos. “It takes that much more time for these examiners to process.”
The past two months, it has taken hours to get any of these IDs or permits. Some people have had to return up to three days to get their licenses, because there are more people in the driver’s license offices than the examiners can handle.
Arthur Turner of Gulfport had just started a new job at Olive Garden on Monday when he discovered his ID had expired. His boss let him go to the Highway Patrol office on Mississippi 67 to get a new one. He left empty-handed and returned Tuesday.
“I’ll give it another hour,” he said at 11 a.m. So far, his boss has been understanding, he said.
Alex Mcfall of Gulfport had a couple of job interviews lined up, he said, when he noticed his license had expired.
“I’m rescheduling the interviews and hoping I can get it today,” he said.
That’s a common problem.
“A lot of people wait until the last minute,” Poulos said. “Or they wait until the end of the month or the first of the month to renew their license.”
He said people can save themselves a lot of grief by trying to renew online or at one of the self-service kiosks. There are kiosks at the Highway 67 office and the Highway Patrol office in Orange Grove at 12188 U.S. 49.
Polous said he knows not everyone has a computer or is computer savvy, but there are people to help at the kiosks. And, if you must come to the office, he suggests waiting until next week, when he believes the crush will be over because the school year will be in full swing.
And, he said, be patient and courteous. An official said there were two people being detained Tuesday afternoon at the Mississippi 67 office for profane outbursts.
“You would be surprised at the people who come in who think they can get through the system with an active warrant,” said Poulos. That, he said, will further slow things down as those people are taken into custody. “Once they are in the system, that examiner is under a whole lot of extra pressure because they can see it on that screen. There are people arrested at those driver’s license offices all the time.”