Like many things affected by the pandemic, the Department of Revenue and Taxation's Division of Motor Vehicles faced a number of challenges in this last year.
Residents who schedule an appointment online must wait months in advance. While in the past couple of months the agency has allowed for some walk-in customers for driver's licenses and Guam IDs, the capacity of around 100-150 a day meant people were lining up for hours – some as much as 10 hours because they'd line up by midnight and wait for the agency to open its parking lot. It also didn't help that services for driver's licenses were only open three days a week.
Recently, the agency took a step to make sure services for both driver's licenses and vehicle registration are offered five days a week – something they are able to do now that vehicle registration services have moved to the Department of Public Works compound in Upper Tumon.
Dafne Mansapit-Shimizu, DRT director, said the department had been working on shifting services to the DPW compound for several months to ensure they follow social distancing requirements and did their part to safeguard the health of the public and DRT staff.
Interviews were conducted with one high school and one college student regarding their DMV experience this past year.
'I learned from experience'
Micah Pilarca, a college freshman at the Berklee College of Music, summarizes his DMV experience as confusing.
"I have been to the DMV three times in March 2021. I learned from experience that leaving my house at 3 a.m. wasn't early enough, so I left at 1 a.m. – and was the 36th car in line."
Pilarca went to the DMV with his sister to get his driver's license. His first visit was on a day the DMV wasn't accepting walk-ins. DMV only accepted walk-ins on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at that time.
His second visit also ended with him and his sister turned away, for not having all available documentation.
"I could not find any clear information as to what I had to bring to get my full driver's license. I asked friends and no one told me they needed a traffic clearance, so after going a second time, they turned me away because I didn't have one," he said.
Pilarca emphasizes the importance of having all available documentation when visiting the DMV. He believes the biggest problem with DMV is a lack of information.
"I suggest posting information (such as required documentation) clearly on the home page of the DMV website."
On Pilarca's final visit, another problem occurred and his license ended up having incorrect information.
"(When) a worker was entering my information for my license, I was not asked to check if all the information was correct," he said. "They sent me to the printing station, and then I was asked if everything was correct. As I was checking, I noticed the first worker entered my weight wrong. I told the worker at the printing station that my weight was entered wrong and asked if I could change it, to which they replied, "I already printed it, sorry."
Despite Pilarca's experience at the DMV, he is still thankful and appreciative to the workers.
"I appreciate the work that was being put into keeping cars and customers organized. I also appreciate the workers that enforced social distancing."
Sean Yoon, a high school student at St. John's School, shared his own experience.
"I was expecting the DMV to be regular as usual because Guam has much less infection by (COVID-19) compared to most of the countries in the world," he said.
Rather than scheduling an appointment, Yoon opted to walk in and waited 10 hours in line to obtain his intermediate permit. Similar to Pilarca, he lined up at DRT at 1 a.m. Yoon said he was prepared with all the required documentation, but ultimately couldn't stand the wait.
"Waiting for 10 hours is exhausting," he said.
Yoon believes the DMV can improve by focusing on the mail-in option.
"DMV should mainly focus through mail-in (rather) than (physically) meeting. If DMV can process mail-in at least three days to at most a week without opening physically, then it would be better in terms of saving (time) and (mitigating) contact in the pandemic."
Yoon recommends seeking their mail-in intermediate permit.
"Please don't wait 10 hours waiting like me. Just mail-in. Don't forget to renew your traffic clearance in physical copy. DMV doesn't accept (an) online copy."
Pilarca was able to obtain his driver's license and Yoon his intermediate permit. Both emphasize the importance of preparing the correct documentation and coming on the correct day.
The demand for driver's licenses has been a long-time issue for the agency, Mansapit-Shimizu has said. And that demand has grown as more people have been trying to get Real-ID compliant IDs and licenses that allow them to get onto federal installations and buildings, or participate in federal programs.
Mansapit-Shimizu said the agency is still in the process of getting renewal and replacement of driver's licenses and Guam IDs to be online.