9 Investigates

9 investigates long wait times at DMV

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It’s the task people dread when they move to North Carolina, or when a teen driver is ready to hit the road solo: waiting in line at the DMV.

Some drivers have even been forced to take a day off from work because the lines at the DMV can be so grueling.

Before the doors opened at 7 a.m. Friday at the Huntersville DMV, there was already a long line.

Ryan Twiford was first in line with a pillow at 5:50 a.m.

"I have to be at work at 8:30, and I don't have anything more than a lunch break," Twiford said.

He was lucky. Getting his license renewed took about 10 minutes, but adding in his early wait time brought his wait to an 1 hour and 20 minutes. His goal was to avoid a packed waiting room and even longer wait times.

"I came up here twice this week, and both times the wait time was over three hours," Twiford said.

Kimberly Henry just moved to the state from Louisiana, and she heard the horror stories before she showed up. She spent three hours getting her license.

"They were just saying it took three to four hours, which is hard for people trying to take off a chunk of time from work," Henry said.

Anchor Stephanie Maxwell had a similar experience trying to get a driver’s license as a new resident.

She tried twice at the Concord location, but the wait was too long.

Then she tried the Huntersville DMV on a Saturday in April.

She was there when the doors opened at 8 a.m., and the line was already past the building.

It took her until 9:45 a.m. for Stephanie to get inside to get a ticket.

But when the office closed at noon, her ticket wasn't called.

She waited four hours and did not get a license.

Gov. Pat McCrory has recently pushed to improve the DMV experience around the state.

His initiative started with a report listing wait times and other problems at the DMV.

Some of the suggested improvements included adding Saturday hours and extending hours at busy offices like Huntersville.

The governor tapped Commissioner Kelly Thomas to lead the overhaul. He told Channel 9 that in 2012 the statewide average wait time was 34 minutes, and it's been reduced.

"Of the 23 minute statewide average--we still have offices experiencing 30 minutes or more depending on the day and depending on the time of day," he said.

The DMV website does suggest times that may be less busy. It cites early morning and early afternoon as the least busy, especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Stephanie called 10 local offices last Thursday in the middle of the month around 10 a.m. Only five offices answered.

East Charlotte had a two-hour wait to see an examiner. Gastonia's wait was two hours. Mooresville reported two and a half hours. The Concord location had a three and a half to four hour wait. The shortest wait time was Monroe at one and a half-hours.

Two hours after opening at the Huntersville office, an examiner told Channel 9 that a lot of these customers, including ones sitting on the floor, would be there for about an hour and 17 minutes.

When Stephanie Maxwell asked if that was because it was a Friday he told her that the long wait time existed every day.

The long wait times are why many customers said McCrory is far from driving change.

"If he's been successful, it hasn't been in Charlotte," Twiford said.

Commissioner Thomas said many customers don't realize they can renew their licenses online.

He believes that will shorten the lines and waits, but admits there's still more work to do.

Starting in October, the road sign test will only be required for someone getting their license for the first time.

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