More than a year after the Texas Department of Public Safety reopened its driver’s license offices, including in Denton, frustrated drivers still are waiting weeks or months for appointments.
That poses a problem, for instance, for those who need renewed licenses to board planes or obtain passports. And to make matters worse, police here continue to issue citations for expired licenses.
“Many DL offices have extended hours, and some have even offered Saturday appointments, to try to help more customers get the services they need,” Emily Miller, a spokesperson for DPS, said in an email. “While appointments mean customers are no longer waiting in line for services, it does require customers to go online and make an appointment ahead of time.”
The Denton Record-Chronicle on Facebook asked drivers to share their experiences about trying to renew their licenses here and elsewhere.
“I was able to schedule my appointment, but it took about two months,” Candice Cohen said. “During the pandemic, it was hard to get non-expired IDs from new hires due to appointments being so far out.”
Brittany Rose Terracciano said on Facebook that after moving to Denton from California in April, the soonest appointment she could get was in August.
‘Almost impossible to get in’
“I have been going to the Flower Mound office every day as early as I can … and have not been able to get in,” Terracciano said. “Today when they came out and handed out the walk-in appointment tickets, they basically said it’s almost impossible to get in without an appointment.”
The temporary waiver Gov. Greg Abbott granted last year on renewing vehicle registration and state ID cards expired in April. He extended the expiration last year for Texans to renew their licenses, state ID cards and vehicle registration if they expired after March 13, 2020, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We understand some customers are having to book appointments weeks, or months, out due to limited availability,” Miller said. “It’s important to note that appointments can be made up to six months in advance.”
In Denton, customers are still visiting the driver’s license office on North Loop 288 — but the new building on East McKinney Street at Mayhill Road is expected to open later this year, Miller said.
“The Denton Driver License Office is the final stages of construction, and we anticipate it opening for business later this year,” she said.
858,000 expired licenses
Meanwhile, on Facebook, many seeking renewals or name changes after getting married say they have had to wait months.
“Made an appointment about [three] months out in Denton, but when appointment came it was super fast,” Sonia Buenrostro said. “I barely started filling out paperwork when I was called up.”
Aleisha Mollen said it also took her a while to change her license. “I moved back in October, and it took me until the end of May to get an appointment.”
Adding insult to injury, many customers have had to travel for service after scheduling appointments because of limited DPS staff and hours of availability.
“Mine expired in May [with my husband’s] set to expire in August,” Jennifer Shirey Barfknecht said. “Earliest appointment we could get anywhere in the Metroplex was October. Did some research and found an appointment in Graham [two] days later.”
Driver’s licenses and ID cards must be renewed with DPS.
“As of April 1, 2021, there were approximately 858,000 expired driver licenses in the DPS system,” Miller said. “We understand the frustration of having to wait, and we encourage people to check availability at numerous locations, as well as check back often to see if appointments have opened up at their location of choice. Availability changes often.”
Other local residents have been to or have found appointments at DPS offices in Decatur, Gainesville, Lewisville, Plano and Bryan, among other locations.
Nickey Key Smith said her son was starting driver’s education and that she needed to schedule an appointment for him for a learner’s permit.
“All the appointments in the DFW area, including Denton, were taken until mid-October, at least,” she said on Facebook. “I had to schedule him an hour away, in Sherman. The soonest appointment there was mid-August.”
Dustyn Berkowski said he drove 160 miles to Vernon to renew his license, and for Emily Sanders, it took three months to change the name on her license after getting married.
“The date of the appointment is after I had already moved out of state due to military relocation,” Sanders said. “Website says I have to do name change in person, too. So I’ll just have [two] last names for a while.”
Miller said that while driver’s license offices operate by appointment, each one, including in Denton, offers “a very limited” number of same-day appointments.
“These … are available on a first-come, first-served basis and are filled very quickly,” she said. “Customers who book these appointments at the office can then leave until their designated appointment time, so there is no need to wait in line.”
Also, most offices will place customers who walk in without appointments on a standby list in the event of a cancellation.
“We’d like to remind customers who have appointments, but will not be able to keep them, to please cancel as soon as they can,” Miller said. “While the department is working to serve as many customers as possible, people not showing up for their appointments continues to be a major obstacle.”
In May, about 28% of customers did not show for their appointments, Miller said.