California DMV Maintains its High Standards of Service

I would like to think that the California Department of Motor Vehicles is persecuting me because of my comments on their terrible service here and here, but that is wishful thinking, so my sympathies to all those Californians who got a letter like I just did.

It’s a bill for renewing my registration and it’s already overdue, for which I will be fined. The outgoing postmark says it was mailed from Sacramento on July 6 and that the fines begin for any payment that is mailed with a postmark after July 10. I was out of town on July 9, so let’s assume it arrived in my mailbox that day (I was here on the 8th and it hadn’t arrived). July 10 is a Sunday, so the only way to avoid the fine would have been to have opened my mail that day, written the check and driven to the post office to get it postmarked on the 9th. If it fact in arrived on the 11th, I would not even have had that option.

Why doesn’t the DMV just set aside 10% of their annual budget for a Tea Party donation, instead of driving up contributions to anti-government groups in such a roundabout fashion?

FOOTNOTE: The immediately overdue bill contains a “special notice” which seems to say the penalties don’t apply, but is so unclearly written that I couldn’t be sure. But I found this on line which maintains that the penalty information is wrong and one can just pay the normal fee. I will do so. If I go to prison, Mark, let’s talk about how to blog on pieces of toilet paper smuggled out of the Q.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

13 thoughts on “California DMV Maintains its High Standards of Service”

  1. First and only, they recently decided not to send out the advance notices which they used to provide

  2. They aren’t enforcing the penalties–your online search is correct. DMV is doing pretty well considering how much they’ve been cut back and how much stuff they always have to process given that California is the drivingest place on the planet.

  3. The only reason DMV delayed sending out the renewal notices is that they were waiting to see what the legislature would do to the fees. Turns out they lowered the fees (not something I support, as the state needs the money, but there you go–a mini-windfall for you).

    It’s not DMV’s fault that there was a delay. The alternative was to send out the notices and then have to send out refunds, obviously a big expense. Either way means more work for DMV’s employees, but by delaying there is less extra work and no need for refunds.

    I don’t think it’s fair to blame DMV for this. I’ve had nothing but smooth sailing with them even in complicated transactions. And this glitch certainly was not their fault. Sure, their explanatory notice could have been clearer, but anyone following the news knew about this. Keep in mind, also, that their ranks have been thinned by mandatory furloughs and other reductions.

    It is also not their responsibility to send out a renewal; it’s the owner’s responsibility to renew on time. What if a renewal notice is lost in the mail?

    In case you’re wondering, no, I have no connections whatsoever to anyone at DMV. But I am tired of the blaming of public employees and agencies for things that aren’t even their fault.

  4. NCG: It’s not about me, these went out all over the state. Think about the people who don’t understand about the fine and can’t afford to pay it, think about the people who don’t speak or read English very well, think about the people who don’t know how to go on line and get answers. Poor public services do their biggest damage on the least privileged members of society, which is a reason to be more and not less appalled by them.

  5. The DMV could have sent out the notice at the usual time with a box saying that the fee may be changed by the legislature. If it changes, send out the correction. If you pay early, I suppose the old fee stands. Surely the legislature can’t change the fee retroactively?

  6. Everybody here still looking forward to having the DMV guys will be running our health care system?

  7. Kathleen is exactly right. The governor wanted to get some extra revenues by extending DMV fees and delayed the bill so as not to send out two bills.,0,6626528.story

    People will be given a 30 day grace period.

    I, for one, see this as another example of the consequences of our collective inability to take responsibility for structuring our tax code towards sound fiscal policy, in-line with our reasonable expectations for quality government services.

    Instead we get this, having to fiddle with regressive motor vehicle taxes to pay for teachers so as not to offend pie-in-the-sky misanthropes who never believed in their fellow man anyway.

  8. Actually, the DMV does an amazing job dealing with the the entire cross-section of CA’s adult population. What amazes me is how well the DMV runs. Quit complaining. The late registration fee letter had lots to due with the delay in the state’s budget resolution.

  9. I was fully prepared for the worst when I went to the Redwood City DMV last week to renew my driver’s license, which must be done in person if the last two renewals were done by mail. I had made a 10:30 appointment on the DMV’s web site two weeks earlier.

    I arrived at the DMV exactly at 10:30, and after waiting in three queues, handing over checks and forms, getting my fingerprint taken, doing a vision test, and getting my photo taken, I was out the door at exactly 10:55.

    25 minutes to get a license? Not bad for an arm of our completely dysfunctional state government.

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