- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 13, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Who goes to the Department of Motor Vehicles when they don’t have to? In Virginia, a lot people are paying $5 to do so, according to a new report.

A report by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission issued Tuesday found 866,000 customers went to the DMV in fiscal 2014 for services that could have been done online, over the phone or by mail. That’s about one fifth of all people who visited DMV customer service centers.

According to the report, nearly all of those people who went to the DMV were for vehicle registration renewals, a service that doesn’t have to be done in person. Taking care of that kind of transaction in person costs an additional $5 walk-in fee.

DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb told state lawmakers at a panel hearing that his agency was working to provide additional incentives to keep people from making unnecessary trips to the customer service centers. But Holcomb said there were cultural and other factors at work hindering those efforts.

“In southwest Virginia, DMVs are a social outlet. People come and they talk about a Friday night football game or whatever,” Holcomb said. “That doesn’t happen in northern Virginia. It’s all business - wanting to get it done as soon as possible.”

Holcomb said that many people paying the $5 walk-in fee are also paying $10 late fees, and data shows that late payers tend to do so habitually.

“I’m not sure how we break that up,” he said.

The report also found that DMV customer service centers in heavily populated Northern Virginia have longer wait times than the rest of the state. In Arlington the average wait time is 47 minutes, compared with 24 minutes statewide.

Statewide, JLARC found that 10 percent of customers wait more than 1 hour.

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