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Florida DMV offices return to appointment-only after walk-ins caused overwhelming lines

On Monday, Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles decided to revert to appointment-only services. A spokesperson told Local 10 News the decision was based off of feedback they had received from customers.

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – DMV offices in South Florida are back to operating on an appointment-only basis after more than three months of offering walk-in services, where offices were overwhelmed and customers were forced to wait hours in the sun.

If you’ve tried to get something done at a DMV office in South Florida in recent weeks, you may have encountered scenes and lines like the one’s mentioned in this story.

“I tried to make it here around 7:30 or so, and there was already a huge crowd,” says driver Kerry Naranjo.

“I live down the street, and I always pass by and see the lines are crazy,” adds driver Tanice Farrington.

“I went there Wednesday and got there at noon. Took my name and my number. They said, ‘We probably won’t even get to you today,’” says driver Brian Bendel.

In July, offices in South Florida finally reopened to the public, but strictly on a walk-in only basis. This after over a year of operating by appointment-only due to the pandemic, and those appointments are not easy to come by, as Local 10 reported last year.

The backlog of drivers needing services led to offices being overwhelmed.

This is why on Monday, Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles decided to revert to appointment-only services. A spokesperson told Local 10 News the decision was based off of feedback they had received from customers.

Some of the customers we heard from say the limited access has been affecting their livelihood.

“I’m one of the victims,” says driver Miguel Adorno. “I also tried to get the license reinstated at the beginning of the year, and it was hard because the office was only accepting appointments.”

Now, Adorno’s license has been suspended for months, and says this was the third time he lined up and waited hours at the Pembroke Pines location on Pembroke Road. Meanwhile, he’s out of a job as a tow truck driver.

“It’s affecting my job. It’s affecting my ability to provide for my family. It’s affecting me emotionally because I can’t make any money without my license,” says Adorno.

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles told Local 10 that staffing is a problem.

Despite an aggressive push to fill jobs, “currently, more than 40 driver license office positions are vacant,” and ”the department has submitted a legislative budget request to increase the pay for these positions, which currently start at just over $27,000, and add additional positions in South Florida,” said a department representative.

State Senator Shevrin Jones says, “It’s no question that there’s a backlog. There’s no question that the department is understaffed. There’s no question that the buildings that the dmv currently have, many of them need to be updated.”

Jones recently met with Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles leaders to ask about the backups. Meanwhile, he helped get a tent with fans set up outside of the Pembroke Pines office for those who had been lining up and waiting in the sun.

“We live in Florida, so, they’re standing outside in 95-degree weather or while it’s raining,” says Jones. “And, you know, the sad part about it is people, they stand there, because they know for a fact they need this.”

He’s partnering with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to set up more mobile sites offering services on weekends. He also believes the state should consider waiving penalties for those who have tried and been unable to get an appointment.

“Maybe we need to halt on arresting people for driving with a suspended license if they have shown that they have tried to get an appointment, because that is an issue,” adds Jones.

A spokesperson for the department says appointments can be made online. Slots are opened daily, and they encourage customers to keep checking back if none are available. The department also says it has started opening some offices earlier and on Saturdays to offer more options for service.

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About the Author:

Amy Viteri is an Emmy Award-winning journalist who joined Local 10 News in September 2015. She's currently an investigative reporter and enjoys uncovering issues facing South Florida communities. A native of the Washington, D.C., area, she's happy to be back in South Florida, where she earned a masters degree at the University of Miami.