This week, the state Division of Motor Vehicles will stop handing out driver's licenses at its six local offices across Wake County. Instead, DMV will start delivering licenses by mail.
Harnett County drivers have been on the DMV mailing list since July. Wake will be the second county to make the switch to what the department calls "central issuance" of driver's licenses. The rest of North Carolina will follow by this fall.
The local driver's license offices in North Raleigh, West Raleigh, Cary, Garner, Fuquay- Varina and Wendell are each closing for a half day this week, on staggered schedules, to make the change. DMV will install new computer software and remove the old machines that used to stamp out fresh, warm plastic every time you came in for a license.
In place of that new license, you'll leave the DMV office with a piece of paper -- a temporary driving permit -- and a promise that the new license will follow in the mail within 20 days.
Since the new program was initiated a year ago at the Lillington and Erwin DMV offices, 63,000 Harnett County motorists have received their licenses in their mailboxes. DMV cranked out about 168,000 licenses last year for drivers in Wake County, and 2.6 million statewide.
DMV says it is making the change to reduce fraud and identity theft. Sixteen other states have begun or completed a shift to central issuance of driver's licenses.
All applications for new, duplicate and renewed licenses will be reviewed at DMV headquarters on New Bern Avenue in Raleigh to confirm each driver's identity and eligibility. The new licenses will be mailed from the central office.
"We look for false identities and false addresses," said Marge Howell, DMV spokeswoman. "Or they might be coming down here from another state, trying to get a driver's license in North Carolina -- when they're not a resident of the state."
For drivers, the change should amount to no more than a procedural hassle.
You'll take the usual tests at the local office, where DMV will record your signature and snap your photo. You'll leave with a piece of paper that includes your name and address and an identifying bar code -- but not your photo and signature.
Most licenses are delivered within seven to 10 days, the agency says.
Here are this week's closing times for the six driver's license offices in Wake County:
Cary, 1387 SE Maynard Road: Closing at noon today, reopening 8 a.m. Wednesday.
North Raleigh, 2431 Spring Forest Road: Closing at noon today, reopening 8 a.m. Wednesday.
Wendell, 2951 Wendell Blvd.: Closing at noon Wednesday, reopening 8 a.m. Thursday.
West Raleigh, 3231 Avent Ferry Road: Closing at noon Wednesday, reopening 8 a.m. Thursday.
The Fuquay-Varina (131 S. Fuquay Ave.) and Garner (222 Forest Hills Drive) offices closed Monday afternoon and were scheduled to reopen this morning.
To avoid going even a few days without a valid license and up-to-date photo ID, Howell says, drivers should renew their licenses early. State law allows you to renew your license up to six months before the birthday when it is scheduled to expire.
For more information, contact DMV by phone at 715-7000 or online at www.ncdot.gov/dmv.
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