State stats say it takes 53 minutes on average for someone to get a driver’s license from one of Tennessee’s 48 driver service centers. But those suffering through the process say the ordeal actually can last hours and even require multiple trips.
The difference? Official stats only take into account the time that elapses between a customer entering the building and getting served. They don’t include time customers often must spend in line before they actually get inside the service center, let alone the occasional need for coming more than once.
“This is from the time someone pulls a number to be served [meaning they are inside the building],” said Jennifer Donnals, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security. “It does not include the wait time before then as there is no accurate way to determine that time.”
Long waits have been a problem for years, resisting repeated efforts by at least two governors to solve them. But a spotlight is now on the issue after the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed a law this year mandating that all Tennesseans have state or federally issued photo IDs to vote in elections beginning in 2012.
State Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons, who took office in January, said he knows it takes too long to get a license — let alone the free photo IDs the department is preparing to issue for as many as 126,000 Tennesseans age 60 and over who have driver’s licenses with no pictures.
“It’s one of our priorities to really focus on really reducing our wait times,” Gibbons said, noting the problem was already at the very top of our list as the department carries out Gov. Bill Haslam’s orders to all departments to conduct “top to bottom” reviews.