August 10, 2012 By Noelle Knell
Drivers in Maine now have an alternative to visiting a local Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) office when it comes time to renew their driver’s license.
Working with an arm of e-government company NIC, Secretary of State Charles Summers’ office has entered into a partnership with AAA to add services at their local branches that were previously only offered at BMV offices. Maine, along with Michigan and Illinois, are the only states in which the Secretary of State is responsible for the Motor Vehicle agency.
“There's still a segment of the population that's nervous about going online for whatever reason, and this allows us to reach that audience through a place that they currently visit, and still they get that in-person service that they're looking for, but it goes through an online service,” said Lesley McCaw, director of operations and marketing for InforME, the state’s Web services provider.
But it’s not just the Web-averse demographic that’s benefiting from the change.
A new Web-based application allows AAA staff to interact with the BMV’s system, and establish drivers’ legal residence in accordance with state law. These “presence” requirements, brought about by Maine’s implementation of federal Real ID rules a few years back, meant that residents already accustomed to online renewal were faced with visiting a motor vehicle office in person for the first time in many years. This led to a sharp decline in online renewals and a corresponding influx of residents to motor vehicle offices.
“The fact that so many people could no longer renew strictly online, they had to show up and bring documents with them to show a human being, basically created a crush at BMV offices with long, long lines,” explained project manager Dan Andrews to Government Technology.
The AAA partnership is providing some relief. Beyond the residence verification, AAA staff are trained to conduct vision tests as needed, and securely transmit the data online to BMV. Citizens leave AAA offices with a temporary license they can use until their new driver’s license arrives in the mail from the BMV.
A pilot of these new service offerings is now under way in the AAA office in Waterville. Launched on May 21, the office has processed about 700 license renewals to date, exceeding officials’ expectations. Next up is to implement the functionality at the AAA branch in Augusta.
In addition to avoiding a trip to one of the 13 motor vehicle offices throughout the state between Monday and Friday, residents renewing at AAA are taking advantage of Saturday hours, conducting their BMV business without interrupting their workweek.
Secretary of State Charles Summers describes the addition of service at AAA offices as a “force multiplier” of its ability to effectively serve its customers. He sees the Waterville and upcoming Augusta implementation as just the beginning.
“It's a great service for the public and it's something that we want to try to replicate around the state,” he said.
View Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles/AAA offices in a larger map
Map: When the pilot is fully implemented statewide, Maine residents can get their licenses renewed at any of 13 motor vehicle offices or nine AAA branches.
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