Gary Richards, San Jose Mercury-News
Created: 03/05/2011 07:07:14 AM PST

With thousands of California drivers unable to renew their licenses before they expire because of glitches with the new high-tech format, the Department of Motor Vehicles HAS announced that temporary licenses would be sent out to all affected drivers and would be valid for 90 days instead of 60.

About 250,000 motorists across the state have not received their new cards in time since Oct. 1, with some waiting months for them to be processed. The state estimates that the backlog is now down to 5,000 but acknowledges that it may be April 1 before everyone has a permanent license.

Temporary licenses were previously valid for 60 days and were issued only in DMV field offices. But anyone renewing a license online, by mail or in person will now get a temporary license good for three months.

DMV Director George Valverde said his agency “is aware of the inconveniences that California drivers are experiencing while they wait for their new licenses.” He said he hopes extending temporary licenses will “lessen any negative impact so that Californians can continue their daily lives without interruption.”

Problems have involved colors being off, smudges appearing, photos that are not clear and cards that cannot be read correctly.

While happy that action is taking place, drivers expressed growing frustration with a process that can take more than half a year to resolve.

“It’s been 6 1/2 months and I still have no California picture ID,” said Mark O’Hara, of Portola Valley, who is on his third extension since August. “That’s got to be a record.”

Cheryl Maguire of San Jose has also needed three temporary licenses while she waits for her permanent card to arrive. She said it’s “great that the DMV is providing the additional expiration time, but that also sends the message that it’s going to take a long time to get the real thing.

The new cards come equipped with several features to protect them against fraud, tampering and counterfeiting. Valverde called them among the most secure identification documents in the country.

The DMV said the temporary extensions will be recognized by police and the California Highway Patrol, as well as several federal agencies, including the Transportation Security Administration. Car rental agencies will also accept the temporary license extensions.

And, said the DMV, when drivers renew their licenses, their records are updated within five business days, regardless of when they actually receive their new licenses. So if stopped by police with an expired license, they should be OK.


Nancy Yee’s son, Colin, attends college in Long Beach and his license expired in mid-January, even though he sent in his renewal two weeks before Christmas. At the end of January he was stopped at a police checkpoint and police could not find that the license was being processed. His car was impounded.

He had to pay a $300 towing charge and is now working with the DMV in an attempt to get his money back.

“The police should have been able to see that his license was being processed,” said his mom, noting that $300 “is very steep for a college student.”

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