More Arizona DMV Madness

My daughter is ready for her final (in-car) driving test to try to get her driver's license.  But it turns out that the AZ DMV only gives driving tests before 3PM each day.

This is yet another policy designed for the pleasure of government workers (who want to get home nice and early) and not customer-citizens.  Ask yourself:  Who are 99% of the people who take the in-car driving test.  Answer:  16-year-olds, also known as high school sophomores.  And what are they doing up until 3PM weekdays?  Why, they are going to school!

So I have to pull my daughter out of school to take the driving test.  But it is worse than that, because we can't just show up at 2:30, missing perhaps her last class.  The AZ DMV has this insane process that is essentially a series of chained queues.  One waits in line for the receptionist, who gives the "customer" a number based on what task they want to complete (license, tags, etc).  One then waits endlessly for this first number to come up, only to find that the person who calls you up can only complete half the task (at best), so you then have to wait in line for the next person to complete the next task, etc.

Well, reports from all the other parents tell us that if you show up two hours early (e.g. at 1PM), there is a very good chance you will not get the driving test.  If all the prior queues one must work through cause one to show up at the driving test queue even at 3:01 -- Sorry!  You have to come back another day and start all over.

This is obviously insane.  The chained queue process is nuts.  The fact that the one portion school age kids must complete ends before school is out is nuts.  The fact that the person who performs the last step in the chained process goes home first is nuts.

Until last year, and with my previous kid, we did not have to do this.  AZ had a very sensible law that allowed private licensed driving schools to give the driving test.  You could still go through the DMV, but for a $100 or so one could get this done via a high service, no-queue, work-on-the-weekend private company.  But of course our legislature ended this sensible service last year, ostensibly over concerns about quality, but likely because the DMV folks didn't like competition from outsiders who actually gave a sh*t about customer service.


  1. Roy Greenwell:

    Oh goody! Just wait until all of your medical needs are met by the same process.

  2. marque2:

    It really isn't the chained queue, it is how the queuing is implemented and how much staff your state wants to devote to the DMV.

    I moved to Iowa, and lost my CA drivers license. So I went to the DOT with the basic ID I need (birth cert, SSA card ...) and was able to take the written test and driving test all at the same time. When I was done, they printed out my drivers licence there. It did take 2 hours for everything, but 45 minutes of that was me going home to find proof of insurance - don't know why it wasn't in the glove box, otherwise, I would have been in and out with a license in 1:15 minutes including both test times. Note, if I had my CA driver's license, they would have just done a swap - a 15 minute process.

    DMV's and DOT's efficiency really is dependent on how it is implemented, and the work ethic of the people. One reason why the process was so quick in Iowa, is that the DOT's are handled by the county, and counties tend to be small(I was living in Iowa's second largest county with 200K people). If you are a sloth on your DOT job, it is bound to get back to you as folks talk about you at your church or other localities, so there is much more of a social push for responsiveness.

  3. john mcginnis:

    Interesting. Here in Texas the DMV and license office are separate. Two hours max to get tested for a drivers license with temporary in hand. But all is not nirvana. The county tax collector here is hiring morons.

  4. Dave Boz:

    Private agencies in AZ are still allowed to sell license plates and handle registration services, which they generally do in about 1/20 of the time spent at the DMV. I wonder how long this will be allowed to continue.

  5. marfdrat:

    Insane, yes - but it serves the DMV workers' goal of filling up the day quite well. They're paid to do stuff, not produce customer satisfaction, silly.

  6. MingoV:

    I moved to Tennessee in 2003 and needed a TN driver's license. I discovered that the Memphis area (one million people) had exactly three DMV sites. Average wait for a driver's license: four hours. I then was told (incorrectly, it turns out) that my proof of address documents were unacceptable. I drove an hour to a small town DMV, but I wasn't alone in doing that, and the wait time was two hours.

    License plates are issued by the County Clerk's office. The wait for new plates was only 20 minutes.

  7. Craig:

    I just took my son over for his AZ license. We were there at 7:40 and the first one there for a driving test. Even with this head start, we still did not get out until 9:30. School starts at 7:35, so this means my son missed his first three classes.

    I must say that overall the AZ DMV is light years better than any other state that I've lived in (Michigan, Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut, or Louisiana). My wife just about blew a gasket in Louisiana because I had to verify her identity. And don't get me started on the DC Vital Records Division.

  8. obloodyhell:

    Rather amazingly, there is nothing bad to say in my experience about the Florida DMV, although they are a bit too dependent on their computer systems being down -- and which are far less reliable than they ought to be, since computerization is hardly a recent development.

    That is, you can go there and have problems because the computer is down, but they are generally polite and apologetic about it, and that is about the only issue I've seen there.

    Not sure about different counties, it may be that the local office is just well run and the rest are all c*** s****** m******* f****** sonsa b******s. :-D

  9. obloodyhell:

    }}} The county tax collector here is hiring morons.

    Are you sure they are morons? Perhaps they are democrats.



  10. mesaeconoguy:

    Get ready for chained patient queues.....

  11. mesocyclone:

    My experiences with Arizona DMV have been surprisingly positive, although I haven't run into this problem. In general, at least at the Scottsdale Airport office, they seem to be pretty efficient, well organized, and generally fairly friendly. I've had to deal with them twice in the last few months (once to renew a DL, the other to transfer a car title).

  12. Dan Sherman:

    Might have been less complicated to get the license in NV and then transfer it over to AZ. And see a show on top of it. Ha!

  13. Dan Sherman:

    I haven't needed to get a minor their first license, yet. But in my own dealings with the AZ DMV, I found the particular offices to be light year's difference. Go to one near Gilbert (SE Mesa) and it was a pleasurable experience. Go to Tempe and you'll think you might have stepped into a different country with the lower expectations for customer service, along with it.

  14. perlhaqr:

    Yeah. If the DMV office wasn't "busy" all the time, someone might think to reduce the number of people on staff!

  15. SamWah:

    Sounds much like (almost exactly like) buying anything at the GUM store in Moscow in the commie era.

    My local DMV (smallish town) does well.

  16. HenryBowman419:

    Reminds me of attempting to make a purchase in a USSR store, which I had the misfortune of doing in 1971: you had to (1) go to a counter to select an item to purchase, (2) have the clerk behind the counter fill out a purchase slip, (3) go to a cashier, where you paid for the item and had the purchase slip marked PAID, and (4) return to the original counter, present your PAID receipt, and take possession of the item. At every step of the process, there was a queue.

    Not too long ago I attended an event hosted by some left-wing group in Santa Fe, NM. I can't recall the details, but what I do remember is that they used exactly the same procedures to sell items for fund-raising. They may be useful idiots, but idiots they surely are.

  17. Old Fart:

    I can't believe I'm saying this, but here in California you make an appointment, go in at the appointed time bypassing the queues, and are out in no time. But if it don't make an appointment, same story.

  18. Christine Bane:

    The fees are enormous though. To register two off-road vehicles and a trailer, my husband paid $57 in fees above the DMV costs

  19. nehemiah:

    And when you get to the end of the queue rather than finding that the doctor went home, you'll find out he retired. But don't worry, at least you'll have insurance.

  20. nehemiah:

    I'll second that on FL DMV. The Elections Supervisor in my county runs a pretty tight ship as well.

  21. Rick C:

    Opportunity costs, Christine. Nobody wants to pay the extra, but it let your husband save a bunch of time.

  22. Rick C:

    I guess summertime when the kids are out of school must have even longer wait times, or more people would be just doing that instead of missing a half day of school.
    One of the many advantages of homeschooling.

  23. Robert:

    One hot summer day in Atlanta, about 27 years ago, I took my son for his driver’s test. The DMV office was located in a large, nearly dead, strip mall . There was a line snaking out the door. People who arrived went to the end of the line which took about two hours to reach the air conditioned office. Once inside, about half of them were told that this was the line for driving tests; if they’d come for license plates they needed to get into the other line, which at least was out of the heat.

    The driving test was given in a section of the parking lot roped off by the DMV. The test area was marked with several different colors of lines which made no sense to me at all. There was a stop sign near the middle of the area.

    People waiting to take the test were told to wait on a small hill overlooking the test area. The hill had a few sprigs of grass and numerous weeds, but was mostly bare dirt. The shadeless hill was littered with cigarette butts, candy wrappers, food containers, and bits of food.

    Each applicant had to produce the registration for the car he was driving. We saw a man sent home because his car’s VIN ended with Z but the DMV had typed a 2. He tried arguing, but was repeatedly told ‘This ain’t your car.”

    We watched as one applicant after another had the test cut short after just a few seconds of driving. The car would stop, there’d be a pause, and then he would drive the examiner back to the start area and go home. We learned from a failed applicant that the examiner had told him to drive to the stop sign. As soon as he began, she told him that he’d failed because he was “driving on the sidewalk” which was represented by a certain color of line. Of course, the colors had never been explained.

    One victim of this ruse had a different reaction. We saw him start to drive toward the stop sign. When he was told to stop the car because he had failed, he jammed on the brakes so hard that the examiner nearly hit the windshield. Then he shifted into reverse, floored it, and laid rubber all the way back to the start, where he again hit the brakes HARD. The examiner staggered out of the car. The man laid rubber again as he stormed away.

    The quiet black man standing next to me said “There’s one sorry M.....F..... who ain’t gonna be gettin’ his license for a looooong time.”

  24. gngdrivingschool:

    Your blog is amazing.Feel nice to read the blog.The way you are sharing your experience is nice....drivers ed online