July 25, 2012 By Brian Heaton
A Web application has made getting back behind the wheel a little more convenient for thousands of suspended drivers in Texas.
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) launched its online Driver License Eligibility application in June 2011, enabling drivers to view license reinstatement directions, pay reinstatement fees and track their driving eligibility status. More than 100,000 Texans used the system last year, accounting for nearly 70 percent of all driver's license reinstatements in the state.
Texans are benefiting from the program’s automation and streamlined processes, and the service also is paying off for DPS staff.
Prior to the application going online, driver’s license reinstatement involved many manual tasks, including handling phone calls from suspended drivers and mail-in payment processing, said Erin Hutchins, director of portal operations for Texas.gov, which hosts the program. With 16 million drivers in the Lone Star State, an automated solution has freed up DPS workers and given customers a better overall experience dealing with the agency, officials said.
“Basically what they told us is for every status check and mail-in that they were having to process … they were spending an average of seven minutes per transaction,” Hutchins said, regarding DPS. “With the 100,000 transactions we’ve generated with the online service, we’ve saved them 700,000 minutes.”
The application’s development was part of a collaborative public-private partnership between DPS and Texas NICUSA, a subsidiary of NIC — the developer of official government websites, online services and secure payment processing solutions. Texas NICUSA operates and maintains Texas.gov, the state’s official website.
Because of the partnership between NIC and the state, the application was built at no cost to Texas. The cost associated with developing the service is recouped via transaction fees.
According to Hutchins, the Driver License Eligibility system took six weeks to build. DPS had to make some minor modifications to allow developers to complete the reinstatement application and plug into the state’s driver license database. They also took some time to hone the language and messaging that customers see on the screen.
“It took us a while to get through the requirements, because again, we’re trying to serve a constituency that is probably not entirely happy about having to complete this service,” Hutchins said, referring to suspended drivers. “So we wanted to be really careful about the language we were using, the usability of [the program] and the customer service aspects.”
Because of the time spent developing the reinstatement application, Hutchins added that not much is on the table at the moment regarding enhancements or system upgrades. It’s already mobile-enabled, so any user visiting the system via a smartphone or tablet device automatically sees a single-column layout. Minimal vertical scrolling is necessary.
The mobile content was also constructed to be brief and viewer-friendly, so very little needs to be done on the user’s part in order to complete a mobile transaction.
Customers appear to be latching on to the mobile platform. Approximately 27 percent of users are accessing the application via a mobile device, believed due to the type of population that’s seeking driver’s license reinstatement.
“These are usually lower-income, at-risk type [of] individuals,” Hutchins said. “So I think providing them with that mobile solution versus having something that’s really computer-based is important. That’s why we have such high adoption so far.”
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