Illinois Secretary of State Says Updates Will Make Booking Previously Hard-to-Get License, Driving Test Appointments Easier

(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

The move to mostly online appointments by the Illinois Secretary of State’s office for driving tests and license renewals was supposed to make life more convenient.

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Instead, it caused the online version of a traffic jam.

Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias says another round of updates should clear the metaphorical roads, including a new policy that will allow certain seniors and Illinois residents to move away from in-person visits.

With the “Skip the Line” program that launched in September, the Secretary of State’s office moved to an appointment-only approach for driver’s license renewal, save for the Loop location – the only facility in the Chicago area that’s walk-in only.

Critics, however, complained that it was a chore to actually get an appointment.

Giannoulias on Thursday blamed appointment hoggers: people who grabbed multiple appointments and never showed up without bothering to cancel the extras, and driving schools that he said hoarded appointments for students, locking up the program.

Those issues, he said, should now be alleviated and his office is working with driving schools.

And the Secretary of State’s office is now sending reminders via text messages that ask patrons to confirm or cancel upcoming appointments, which Giannoulias said should be a “game-changer.”

Canceled appointments will free up slots.

“We had upwards of 40% no-shows. If that number is 20%, it’s devastating,” Giannoulias said. “Now with the texting system, that will open up more appointments. And I feel very confident that this will start showing itself in the next couple of weeks, month.”

Other changes should also free up appointment times, he said.

When visitors log on to the Secretary of State’s website and enter their license, Social Security number and birthdate, they’ll be sent to the online appointment portal if that’s needed, otherwise they’ll be alerted if they can truly skip going to drivers’ facility by just managing their business online. 

“You should only need to visit a DMV every 12 years,” if you have a clean driving record, Giannoulias said. “Save yourself a trip. Don’t come to the DMV, don’t waste your time and make it harder on yourself.”

Previously, getting an address change on a license or state ID issued required an-in person visit. Now, that can be done online.

Also, seniors aged 75 to 78 no longer need to visit a facility for license renewal.

Seniors who do need to physically go to a facility can visit senior-only centers, which opened this fall in Bridgeview, Calumet Park, Evanston and Westchester. Likewise, other facilities exclusively do driving tests. The road testing facilities are in Addison, Chicago on Elston Avenue, Lockport and Evanston.

While the modernization effort is mostly about making digital moves, there are also some old-school changes.

The office has a hotline (800-252-8980) that anyone can call for help with their online needs or for aid getting an appointment. The number can also direct seniors and teens to issue-specific assistance.

Giannoulias said he is open to further easing requirements on older drivers, when it’s backed up by data that shows it can be safely done.

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