RALEIGH — Summer is usually the busiest time of year for the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles, and that may be especially true this year as the COVID-19 pandemic eases.
The DMV expects demand at its driver’s license offices will surge this summer, as students hoping to get licenses before school are joined by people who have put off getting or renewing licenses because of the pandemic.
“Many people waited to schedule in-person services until it was safer to do so, which could lead to a summer with our highest-ever level of demand,” DMV Commissioner Torre Jessup said in a written statement.
That demand comes as DMV remains short-staffed, with a vacancy rate across the agency of 17%.
Jessup urged people to do their business online or, if possible, wait until after Labor Day, when demand traditionally cools off.
Before the pandemic, long lines at DMV offices were common in the summer, particularly in urban areas such as the Triangle. Some of that demand was caused by people seeking a license that qualifies as a REAL ID, a form of identification that will help people gain access to domestic flights instead of a passport.
But this spring, the federal government put off new ID requirements that include REAL ID until May 2023, which should reduce demand for them now.
At the same time, DMV still requires people to make an appointment at most driver’s license offices in the state, a measure put in place to prevent crowding during the pandemic. That should keep people from simply showing up and forming a line.
Instead, the challenge to get in to the DMV shifts online or to the phone. DMV makes appointments for its driver’s license offices up to 45 days in advance. Spokesman Steve Abbott said new appointments become available most Thursday through Monday mornings, including over the weekend, at www.ncdot.gov/dmv/offic es-services/online/ or by calling 919-715-7000.
“Online is by far the faster way to do it,” Abbott said, though there’s a $3 fee. “If you go through by phone, those folks are going into the same system, so you can cut out that extra step.”
Eight DMV offices have begun accepting walk-ins from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, including the Greensboro East office at 2527 E. Market St. and the Winston-Salem South office at 2001 Silas Creek Parkway.
“You likely want to be there early, as often lines will form,” Abbott said.
As the coronavirus spread in North Carolina in March 2020, the DMV closed more than half of its offices, but nearly all of DMV driver’s license offices have reopened. To find one, go to www.ncdot.gov/dmv/offic es-services/locate-dmv-office/.