VIRGINIA – Drivers are growing frustrated with no end in sight for the computer fiasco at Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Thousands of people haven’t been able to get a license, since a computer outage began last Wednesday. The agency now says it won’t be back online Wednesday and could be out for the rest of the week.
At the Tysons Corner DMV it’s unusually quiet. Normally almost every seat is full but since the outage no one can get a driver’s license or permit and identification card.
“I said you’re not going to believe this,” said Nick Filbert, an 18-year-old who went back to get a new permit.
Filbert got his permit just a month ago and lost it. He needs a new one not just to drive but for work.
“I don’t think I can get paid until I have that. Because they have to verify my information and all that,” said the teen.
Ironically, he says the first time around there was an outage too. The DMV says a nationwide computer system used by the agency went down on August 9th and was unrelated to this one.
About 6500 people statewide get their licenses in person each day, between renewals, identification cards, permits and drivers licenses. That’s 39,000 people since the problem started, nearly enough to fill Nationals Park.
“Everyday I come here, they say system is down we cannot help you,” said Mehrdad Adibpour. He’s helping his brother who just moved her from Iran. Adibpour’s brother can take the test but will have to come back for a license.
“I have to take him everywhere,” Adibpour said. “He needs a car and a license to go to school,” Adibpour said.
The malfunction in the government data storage system has been repaired but the DMV’s large and complicated database must still be verified.
“The DMV will not be able to process drivers licenses or ID’s on Wednesday September 1. So yes, the outage continues,” said Melanie Stokes, spokesperson for Virginia’s DMV.
Governor Bob McDonnell (R-VA) has called for an independent investigation into the massive failure and whether the state’s computer contractor, Northrop Grumman, should reimburse the state for lost business and productivity.
Initially the outage affected 30 state agencies. As of Tuesday, the DMV, the state’s department of taxation and the board of elections remain out. It’s prevented people from filing tax returns or making payments, but the agency says it will not assess penalties or interest for those late because of the computer problems.
The voter registration database is also unavailable at the Board of Elections because of the computer problems too. State officials say Northrop will be hit with a financial penalty of at least $100,000 and possibly more.
The DMV is urging people who are eligible to renew their license online. Drivers will be able to print out a 30-day temporary license until the new license arrives in the mail. The online system is still working, because it doesn’t require a new picture. The problem at the DMV is the cameras can’t take new picture and save them in the system. In Virginia, people can renew online as long as they didn’t do it last time.
Those whose license expired during the outage will have to go to a DMV office and provide proof of citizenship or legal residency.
The problem has created a backlog of thousands who need their license renewed. Clearing that backlog will take time. Today Virginia State Police told troopers not to write tickets for drivers with an expired license between August 25, 2010 and September 30, 2010. The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police also advised local law enforcement to do the same.
Once the system is fixed, all those people could create a crush at the DMV.
“If we do reach capacity, we anticipate some customers will have to wait outside,” said Stokes, which could be a problem in the extreme heat.
DMV is planning to put officers at its service centers to help with crowd control. It’s also sending additional staff and part time workers, so the centers will have extra manpower to handle the volume of people.
Taraneh Rafati plans to be first in line. She moved her from Israel, passed the driver’s test but left empty handed because of the computer problem. “I want to beat the crowd. So I will come early, quite early,’ said Rafati.
The DMV doesn’t know when the system will be fully restored. Wednesday is already out and Thursday and Friday are no guarantee.