TAR HEEL VIEW: DMV should be back on track after snafu

Bureaucracy, thy name is DMV.

It was a hot mess last year when the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles reported that some residents had lost their driver’s licenses because of … let’s say “technical difficulties.” But everything seems to be back on track now, Forsyth County Clerk of Court Susan Frye told the Journal’s Michael Hewlett recently. People who lost their licenses for no proper reason have had them restored.

“They have done a great job in correcting what was wrong with the process,” Frye told the Journal.

At one point, Frye said, her office was receiving 75 calls a day over the issue. That number has dropped down to essentially zero, she told the Journal.

The problem came about because the DMV didn’t update the records of drivers who were involved in court cases to show when they had taken actions to keep their licenses — paid traffic tickets or rescheduled a court date to get a “failure to appear” taken off their records. Next thing these drivers knew, they were being notified that their licenses had been revoked, even though, as far as they knew, everything was fine.

It was a major snafu that affected possibly thousands of North Carolina residents, many in Forsyth County.

There also seems to have been a disgruntled employee who was gumming up the works by shredding some error reports. Officials were reluctant to discuss that matter, but did say that an employee was found to have failed to update driver records “in a timely manner and was terminated for unsatisfactory work performance.”


Fortunately, once the DMV realized there was a problem, it began taking corrective actions. It did an audit of two years’ worth of error reports to “ensure that all driver records reflect the appropriate court action,” John Brockwell, a spokesman with the DMV, told the Journal. It sent out a news release with a phone number for people to call if they believed there was a problem with their driver records. The N.C. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General started an investigation into the error reports, Brockwell told the Journal.

The DMV also updated its electronic system several times to make sure error reports are accurately processed, officials reported, and restructured its Processing Services section to make sure all conviction information that the DMV receives is handled efficiently. The N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts and the DMV started a joint working group in April to develop best practices and methods to make sure DMV information is accurate, the Journal reported.

It sounds like the DMV did everything it could. It’s part of living in a technological society — there are going to be big problems and people are going to be inconvenienced — sometimes maddeningly so. But the DMV seems to have handled the situation in a responsive and responsible way. Let’s hope that’s the end of it.

The Winston-Salem Journal