I know, I know. What's new? The DMV is always a nightmare, right?! Well, believe me, things can always get worse. Here in my neck of the woods, the chicks working at the DMV have fingernails 3 inches long. Really, seriously, no exaggeration. These chicks hunt and peck with two fingers to enter information into computers while people wait in lines that snake through the place and out the front door to stand in the sun for hours with a hundred other people. This is SOP around here. But believe me it can get worse.
This year 2 months before my (undisclosed) birthday when my license was set to expire, I received a letter telling me that I could renew online. I thought, "Oh! Thank God! No DMV nightmare this time." I proceeded directly to the website, entered my PIN, and dutifully paid my $33. And waited to receive my license in the mail. And waited. And waited. In the midst of all the waiting, I completely forgot about it until several days after my birthday, when I realized my license had expired. I went back to the CA DMV and found out that there was a major backlog and delay in licenses due to a new system. I'm not certain, but I think this might be the exact point at which my life started to radically shift into the movie Brazil.
I read on the CA DMV site that if my application was over two months old (it was) that I should send an email asking about the delay. I did. I received this response:
"Thank you for contacting the Department of Motor Vehicles regarding your
driver license (DL).Your driving record indicates that your driver license renewal
application is pending Problem Driver Pointer System (PDPS) clearance.
In order to resolve this matter, please contact the DMV PDPS Unit at
916-657-8849 for further assistance. Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your concern. We appreciate your patience, and apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you."
I called. I was informed that the new (dreaded) National Drivers Register was preventing completion of my license renewal due to a problem in Illinois. I had a license in Illinois from 1984 (I know, telling) to 1986. It was during this time period that I received my one and only speeding ticket ever. At the time of that ticket, I not only paid the fine but took a drivers' safety course offered by the Highway Patrol to clear my record for insurance and points. So naturally I thought, there must be some mistake.
On Monday, April 25, I called (217)785-3108 in Illinois and was informed that my reference number was my old license number. They instructed me to call the Traffic Division at (217)785-8619. The woman (I didn't get this one's name. My bad.) at this number told me that in order to get my California driver's license I had to pay Illinois $75. The plot thickens as the shakedown begins.
I asked why I should pay Illinois $75. What was it for? All she would tell me was that I had to pay Illinois $75 for a reinstatement fee. I asked what this was about, and the woman said she would call me back with details. More waiting. No calls.
On Wednesday, April 27 at 12:00 noon, I call the Illinois Traffic Division again. This time I spoke with a woman who identified herself as Crystal. She also informed me that I had to pay Illinois a $75 fee. When I asked why, she simply said, "If you want your California driver's license you have to pay us $75." This is beginning to sound an awful lot like fraud and blackmail to me. She, too, said that she would look into the cause of the fine and return my call. This time I knew I would not be getting any answers later. The game was becoming clear.
At this point, I called the California DMV to try to report to them what was going on. All they would say was that they had no control over Illinois, and I had to pay regardless. There is no one to report this to at all. The game is on! Fraud , blackmail, potentially someone in Illinois is embezzling these untraceable fees. All that the CA DMV will say is, "I'm sorry. We have heard many reports of strange things going on in Illinois. You should never have gotten a license there. It is out of our jurisdiction." Okay. I appreciate the sympathy, but this is not helpful. I need a license to drive, to conduct banking, to board a plane!
More waiting. No calls.
On Monday, May 2 at 1:40 pm, I called the Illinois Traffic Division again. This time I spoke with an agent who identified herself as Angie. Same routine: will not tell me why I owe a fee, I simply must pay if I want a California driver's license. What can I do? I pay the blackmailer her requested amount: $75. She takes my VISA card number over the phone, like any other purchase transaction. When I ask to speak to her supervisor, she refuses. I am told her supervisor is Michelle. Michelle will be notified of my concerns and will call me back. Okay. I have heard this line many times now from Illinois.
I get off the phone and decide that this incident should be reported. But to whom? At this point, I come to find that there is no oversight at all for the State DMV offices and practices. They could literally start dragging us away in the middle of the night, and there is no one to report anything to, no one cares. Fraud, extortion, blackmail. Anything is game for the DMV! No oversight at all.
I spent several days calling offices all over DC. I figured there must be some federal jurisdiction over the local DMVs, but no. Well, what started all this? The dreaded National Driver's Register, a federal program. Have you ever tried to get anything done on a federal level. Riiiiight. Transferred from office to office while they pass the buck and try to figure out which of the billion federal employees is supposed to handle this specific issue. After two days, I finally call (and of course, leave a voice mail message for) Sean McLaurin of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. He is in charge of the National Driver's Register. Several days later, his secretary returned my call. She was sympathetic. She said she has received many complaints of similar concerns from individuals dealing with the Illinois DMV. They seem to be aware that something is amiss. It is not their jurisdiction. But it is their program (the National Driver's Register) that has opened the door for the individuals in this office in Illinois to perpetrate this fraud and blackmail scheme on innocent individuals who have long since moved from the state. Out of our jurisdiction, mam. But there must be someone! No one oversees these offices at all! All of this bureaucracy, and they are under the wire? "You can write a letter to Ray Lahood, Secretary of the Department of Transportation." So I guess that I will snail mail him a copy of this blog post.
Within several days of giving Illinois credit card information, I noted on bank records that the payment posted. I called the CA DMV, and was told that I was cleared from the National Driver's Register. The system should automatically update and send my license. I requested a temporary in the meantime. Two weeks have passed. To date, still no temporary nor license. I suppose a further round of harrowing phone calls is in order.
I post this entry to my blog in my hope that someone may find it when they Google Illinois DMV fraud, as I did. We need to start some kind of "paper trail" or record for what is going on in that office. This is an exact record or diary of my very frustrating interactions with the Illinois Traffic Division. Please post a response if you have had a similar experience. Illinois is the land of some of the biggest government corruption ever perpetrated in America, so this I guess this is minor by comparison. Small consolation.
All names and dates are real facts in this report. I have changed no names to protect the innocent, because there are no innocent.
Now back to better thoughts. Dolly blogging. . .