CHOKEPOINTS

State bill pushes for more online DOL services to reduce backlog

Feb 2, 2021, 6:28 AM | Updated: 6:31 am
DOL, licensing, traffic...
Traffic on I-5 into Seattle back in March 2020, when traffic was light. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

The state Department of Licensing (DOL) believes it will have a backlog of nearly 1.5 million requests by the end of the year, if nothing is done to address the problem caused by pandemic.

Washington lawmakers begin to negotiate on increased gas tax, carbon fees

Teens trying to get their first licenses, commercial drivers trying to renew their CDL’s, everyone who needs to resolve something at the DOL knows how hard that is right now. The offices were closed for half of last year, and they are only taking appointments. Even with some fast-tracking measures Governor Inslee approved last year, the DOL believes there is a current backlog of more than 400,000 transactions. The DOL’s Beau Perschbacher told the Senate Transportation Committee on Monday that something needs to be done.

“Because our offices had to be shut down and we’re now only open at about 35% capacity with the physical distancing requirements and staffing challenges, we think it will be over five years to get back to equilibrium with our current capacity,” he said.

Senator Marko Liias has proposed a bill (SB 5270) at the DOL’s request that would address this backlog.

“This bill attempts to take some of the best parts of what we’ve learned during the COVID response and put them into law and reduce the backlog significantly from there,” he said.

The bill would extend the current driver’s license term from six years to eight years. It would only require a new photo every 16 years, and people would be able to submit those pictures online. The goal is to expand the online services so the DOL can focus on people who really need to visit an office.

The DOL believes it can eliminate the backlog by the end of next year, if the bill is passed and the changes made.

Alexis Young represents the licensing service representatives you see at the offices. She doesn’t believe the backlog is as bad as the DOL says it is.

“This is kind of an over-reaction to a temporary problem,” she testified. “I mean, we’ve had one year of COVID that’s caused five years until equilibrium. That doesn’t add up to me.”

Young is worried going online with more services will cost her members their jobs. She is also concerned that without face-to-face interactions, people who shouldn’t be driving might slip through the cracks.

“LSR’s not only issue IDs, they serve as screeners,” Young said. “They keep people that should not be driving off the road by assessing whether they’re competent to drive.”

Now to the elephant in the room: people posting their own pictures for this vital form of identification.

I know your mind probably thought of the worst selfies you can imagine, or the potential fraud of fake pictures. The DOL’s Perschbacher said the same security available at the offices will be available online.

“People are not uploading photos,” he said. “The photo capture is through our license expressed application, so there are a lot of security features in the background to make sure that there is a live person in front of the camera, that their identity matches when they were in our office, using our existing facial recognition technology.”

Police agencies are also concerned about fake photos and the length between requiring a photo. A lot can change in 16 years.

The cost of licenses would go up, if this legislation passes, but the DOL said it will even out since you will need fewer licenses over time.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.

Chokepoints

(Photo from Flickr)...
Chris Sullivan

Will banning free right turns make our roads safer?

Is it time to get rid of the free right turn on red? The legislature is looking at ways to make streets safer, and it has targeted this common practice this session.
7 hours ago
I-90/SR 18 interchange...
Chris Sullivan

WSDOT breaks ground to fix one of worst chokepoints in WA

The state is finally breaking ground on a project addressing one of the worst chokepoints in the region between I-90 and SR 18.
2 days ago
speed cameras...
Chris Sullivan

Speed cameras on freeways? Seems like a quick way to make roads safer

We have them in school zones, and we have them at intersections, is it time to put speed cameras on the freeways to keep speeds down?
7 days ago
wsdot...
Chris Sullivan

WSDOT is hiring, but can it keep people from bolting for better pay?

The Washington Department of Transportation is back to pre-COVID-19 staffing levels, but can the agency keep those hires from leaving?
9 days ago
gas...
Chris Sullivan

Gas prices have been creeping up, but who’s responsible?

Gas prices are on the rise again in Washington, and it doesn't have anything to do with the war in Ukraine or supply issues in the U.S.
13 days ago
Everett I-5...
Chris Sullivan

Emergency repairs to close multiple I-5 lanes in Everett this weekend

State transit officials are going to close two of the three northbound I-5 lanes around Marine View Drive in Everett all weekend. 
14 days ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
State bill pushes for more online DOL services to reduce backlog