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Need a driver’s license update? Get in line

by Reed Perry
| July 31, 2020 1:09 AM

Backlog grows, and so does extension

COEUR d’ALENE — Backlogs and confusion at the Department of Motor Vehicles have compelled the Idaho Transportation Department to lengthen an existing extension to expiring license credentials.

In March, the DMV issued a 90-day extension for licenses expiring between March 1 and May 31. Drivers had until June 30 to renew.

According to Coeur d’Alene police, a new order issued by DMV extends this order until Sept. 30.

A federal order has extended commercial driver’s licenses as well. CDLs that expire between March 1 and May 31 are valid until Sept. 30.

Both Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls DMV are operating by appointment only. Those appointments must be made through a smartphone app called QLess.

To use the app, one must own a smartphone and agree to share location and calendar data. There was no alternate solution available to those who do not have a smartphone or do not wish to agree to those terms.

Both driver’s licensing and vehicle registration are experiencing wait times of over a month, and many app users are reporting wait times over six weeks.

The scene at Coeur d’Alene DMV on Thursday was one of lines and frustration.

Coeur d’Alene local Jacob Conner recently turned 21 and wanted to update his ID. He used the QLess app on June 16 and didn’t get an appointment until July 29. “And they tried to lock me out,” he said while waiting in the DMV line. “They locked the doors at exactly 12:30.”

“The app said there were long wait times,” said Braydon Butler of Hayden. “Then it couldn’t make an appointment, so I just came over. Now I’ve been here for 45 minutes and haven’t heard a thing.”

Karen Zimmerman of Coeur d’Alene said, “I made an appointment on the app four weeks ago. It texted me with instructions saying to wait in the car, but after waiting for an hour I didn’t hear anything. Now they say they called my name already.”

“The app said I had an 11:30 appointment but they say I don’t have it,” said Robert Lloyd of Coeur d’Alene.

Backlogs caused by the shutdown have been compounded by “social distancing” laws that have disrupted normal operations. Entry to DMV offices is being limited. The public is required to use the QLess app and walk-ins are not allowed.

Amanda Pecor, a DMV employee, said that pandemic guidelines have complicated their system.

“Sometimes we’re an hour behind even with the app, but we’re working through it,” she said.

Other DMV officials referred The Press to the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office, but it did not return calls for comment. Sheriffs oversee DMV operations in Idaho, including vehicle registration and licensing.

Local DMV offices have significant leeway in how they decide to operate.

County offices are managed by both the county sheriff’s office and county assessor’s office. In total, there are 88 county DMV jurisdictions in Idaho. Each jurisdiction has the authority to close its offices or change the way it conducts business.

Counting from March 1, the driver’s license extensions have effectively added 210 days to licenses that would have expired.

“The DMVs across the state typically conduct about 250,000 transactions a month, but because of the limited office access during COVID, we have a significant backlog of approximately 100,000 customers,” said Idaho DMV administrator Alberto Gonzalez. “We’re encouraging the public to go online and only go to DMV offices when absolutely necessary.”