Jennifer Cohan, director of the state Division of Motor Vehicles, discusses recent changes at the division.


If you asked Delawareans what they like to do during their lunch breaks or where they want to go when they rush out of work at the end of the day, it’s almost a guarantee they won’t say the Division of Motor Vehicles.

With its reputation for long lines and red tape, no one likes going to the DMV.

But, DMV Director Jennifer Cohan wants citizens to know that her agency isn’t oblivious to its own shortcomings, and that her staff is doing more to make the experience better and easier for everyone involved.

Q What’s the biggest misconception you think people have about the DMV?
A I think probably the biggest thing people don’t understand is what we do as a regulatory agency, but our emphasis is on customer service. If we can help our customers in any way, were going to do that, but we have federal and state regulations we have to stand by. The cliché is, we’re put on this earth to make people miserable, and that’s not the case.

Q Many have complained about long waits at DMV branches across the state this summer. What has led to long lines?
A The main catalyst for that is we implemented a new drivers’ license in July, which is compliant with the federal Real ID Act; it was a mandate. It requires folks to revalidate who they are and that has caused some confusion. Anytime you launch a new system there are some growing pains. July was hard for us, and we’re doing that with less staff. Summer time is our peak demand time anyway; it added to the wait times.

Q What’s being done to address the long lines and wait times?
A Our average wait times in Kent and Sussex are down to less than a half an hour, in New Castle County it’s 50 minutes, but it’s 90 minutes at [the Churchmans and Airport roads branch]. The challenge with that facility is the facility itself. We’ve also added more staff.

But, if you have a bad experience at the DMV, it sticks with you and we can’t change that until you come in again.

Wait times are down to where they were last year. A lot of that is a credit to our employees. We’re doing many more things on the drivers’ license side

Q How is technology making things easier?
A It is, both on a customer service side and the security side. You go to one line, one clerk waits on you, you get your photo taken, we do all of the required checks — social security, immigration — we do all of those checks electronically. Actually, end-to-end transaction time is shorter than it used to be. It’s not another wait in another line.
We’re also running our facial recognition in the background to make sure no one has your identity and you’re not trying to borrow anyone’s identity.

Q The federal Real ID Act doesn’t require citizens to have compliant identification to board domestic flights or enter federal buildings until 2014. Why did Delaware begin implementing it this year?
A The reason we started now is because we don’t have the resources to have everyone come in at one time. If we start now everyone has five years to come in during their normal renewal periods. When it’s your time, we’ll send you a letter telling you everything you have to bring. It’s completely optional for our customers, they don’t have to get one, but if they don’t they have to use a passport to get on an airplane or to get in federal buildings. And it’s definitely cheaper for our customers to do it this way.

Email Doug Denison at doug.denison@doverpost.com.