OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahomans who need to renew or update their driver's license should plan months ahead.
Gone are the days when Oklahomans could just walk into a tag agency or Department of Public Safety office to get a new license without an appointment. Many tag agents and DPS locations statewide are now requiring people to book appointments in order to renew or obtain a license.
Sarah Stewart, a spokeswoman for DPS, said it’s currently at least a 61-day wait to get a license through the state agency. Every location is booked for two months, and few locations are accepting walk-in customers.
She said there is no grace period for Oklahomans whose license has expired or is expiring — even if they’re waiting for an appointment time.
“I know people who are experiencing (that) within the next two months are going to be stuck,” she said.
Many tag agents are reporting similar delays, she said.
State officials said many tag agents, who are independent contractors, are charging Oklahomans between $3 and $5.55 for an appointment; many locations are no longer accepting walk-in customers like they have in the past.
Stewart said the lengthy delays are combination of COVID-19, Real ID rollout, and legislative budget cuts. The agency was not able to fill about 28 driver's license examiner positions due to reduced state appropriations.
The federally-compliant Real ID licenses will soon be required to enter military bases, federal facilities or to fly domestically. The current state identification won’t stand up to the federal requirements adopted more than a decade ago.
More than 600,000 Oklahomans are expected to apply for a Real ID by the end of 2021.
Oklahoma was one of the final states to start issuing Real ID-compliant licenses last year. It takes nearly 30 minutes to qualify for a license.
Some Oklahomans may be able to renew their licenses online if they want to obtain a license that is not federally compliant. Oklahomans cannot currently renew Real ID licenses online, Stewart said.
“The issues that we are currently seeing regarding long wait times at DPS and tag agency locations have adversely affected many Oklahomans in my district and across the state,” said state Rep. Robert Manger, R-Oklahoma City.
Manger serves as chair of the House’s public safety committee.
“Solutions must be found to speed up the process, decrease the wait times and get Oklahomans back on the road,” he said. “In my new role … I am committed to finding solutions for problems such as this, and I am sure we will be hearing quite a bit about this issue in the upcoming session.”
Janelle Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at email@example.com.