You'll need an appointment -- but can skip the lines -- at many driver services facilities
Questions such as "do you have an appointment?", and the occasional letdown, "all our appointments are full," circulated Friday outside the driver services facility in Lombard.
That's because the Illinois Secretary of State's office this month is retooling a variety of procedures to avoid crowds and lines at DMVs caused by COVID-19 backlogs.
What that means is, as of Monday, many Illinoisans will need to make appointments for services such as behind-the-wheel road tests, REAL IDs, standard driver's licenses, and ID cards at certain locations. The change was rolled out earlier at some sites.
Appointments for those services are required at the following locations: Aurora, Bridgeview, Des Plaines, Joliet, Lake Zurich, Lombard, Melrose Park, Midlothian, Naperville, Plano, Schaumburg, Waukegan and Woodstock, plus three Chicago offices.
Scheduling can be done online at ilsos.gov or by phone at (844) 817-4649.
Walk-ins are still allowed for people seeking vehicle titles, or for renewing license plate stickers -- but please don't, officials say, since stickers are easily obtainable online. Customers can also order duplicate licenses and driving records on the ilsos.gov website.
At the same time, Secretary of State Jesse White is introducing a new program estimated to allow thousands of safe drivers to renew their licenses or ID cards remotely.
Licenses typically expire after four years. The agency currently offers drivers who've had clean records throughout that time a chance to renew online. That opportunity will be expanded for a second consecutive sequence for eligible drivers who currently have expired driver's licenses. The agency will mail out letters with unique PIN numbers to these drivers beginning this fall through February 2022.
The change affects about 1 million individuals, "which in turn will greatly reduce the heavy volume of people visiting driver services facilities," secretary of state spokesman Henry Haupt explained.
In 2019 before COVID-19 hit, 1.38 million driving tests were performed. The pandemic roughly halved that to 771,468 in 2020. However, drivers are catching up in 2021 with 794,798 tests occurring as of last week.
Here are some other details about the changes.
• Facilities still accepting all walk-ins include sites in Deerfield, Elgin and Chicago at the James R. Thompson Center.
• Online appointment slots are available each day or up to 10 days in advance.
• Veterans, expectant mothers, people with disabilities and seniors will still be accommodated as walk-in customers at all DMVs, although appointments are encouraged.
• Driver's license and ID card expiration dates are extended until Jan. 1, 2022, with the exception of commercial licenses. The federal deadline for REAL ID is now May 3, 2023.
You should know
Who fails more road tests, and who's better under pressure: seniors or teenagers?
In 2021, 11.85% of new drivers, including high school students, did not pass their tests. For high school students alone, 8.5% failed. The percentage of seniors age 75 and older who did not pass was 6.8%.
What's the most common reason for blowing road tests? Haupt listed multiple causes.
"Not coming to a complete stop. Not signaling a lane change or not properly looking over their shoulder before changing lanes," he said. "Not focusing on or adhering to the right of way; examples would be a pedestrian crossing the road or proceeding out of turn when another vehicle has the right of way."
Climbing into a car to test an unknown would-be driver is stressful in ordinary times. But what's it like during a pandemic?
One secretary of state examiner provided this insight. "Wearing a mask presents the biggest challenge because it can be hard for constituents to hear you. Sometimes it can be hard to communicate with a constituent because you can't see their mouth when they are talking.
"Wearing the mask can slow down the process because of these communication difficulties. We appreciate the steps taken to keep us safe, but it is important to know that these safety features -- which are important and appreciated -- can slow down the process," the examiner said.
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One more thing
Metra is once again adjusting schedules, this time on all three Union Pacific Lines to reflect changing passenger loads as ridership slowly grows back amid the pandemic. Adjusted train times are listed at metra.com.