DRAPER — The Department of Motor Vehicles is known for having long lines. But on Friday, the department’s patrons got more than they bargained for as hundreds of people sat in their cars for upward of six hours outside of the South Valley office in Draper.
The spread of COVID-19 and Gov. Gary Herbert’s order to limit gatherings to less than 10 people prompted the Utah DMV to close office lobbies across the state and move the majority of services online or to drive-thru locations.
And according to Monte Roberts, director of the Utah DMV, government buildings around the state that offered DMV services prior to the pandemic have now closed, funneling people to the four remaining open locations along the Wasatch Front.
“Prior to this, it wasn't uncommon for our offices to be busy toward the beginning or end of the month because of the expiration period on registrations,” Roberts said. “But right now there’s obviously a lot of other things impacting that.”
Roberts also said it’s possible that as more and more Utahns cope with unemployment, people are rushing to sell their cars, boats, ATVs and other vehicles — all of which require a registration from the DMV.
Whatever the reason, hundreds of people came to the South Valley location on Friday as a line of cars wound through the parking lot, out onto Minuteman Drive and, by some reports, all the way to the off-ramp of I-15. By 1 p.m. police began turning people around.
One of those unlucky patrons was Lisa Hancock, a West Valley woman who got in line at 7:45 a.m. By 1:45 p.m., a DMV official told her she was still about three hours from being helped.
“I just wish they would give us an extension,” said Hancock, who had planned on picking up her new license plates Friday. “Or that there was an easier way to do this.”
“I was wondering, under the current circumstances, why doesn’t the state suspend the requirements to register vehicles?” Rhett Blake said from the front seat of the car he was hoping to register. “It seems like they ought to waive that requirement.”
The Deseret News talked to multiple people on Friday who, after being told they were no longer allowed to wait in line, were concerned they could get pulled over and fined for an expired registration.
“I’m not going to try and minimize the frustration that people are feeling because it’s real,” Roberts said. “We’re trying to accommodate as best we can, given the circumstances, but we don’t have the authority to grant extensions.”
Instead, any type of extension for vehicle registration would have to come from the governor’s office. Robert’s told the Deseret News he hasn’t spoken directly to Herbert about the possibility of extensions, but said it was on the governor’s radar.
A representative from Herbert’s office was not immediately available for comment Friday.
However, the DMV did announce Friday that it would extend the hours at the four open offices along the Wasatch Front. Now, the South Valley, Salt Lake, Farmington and Ogden locations will be open from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday.
Roberts said Friday’s long lines, which prompted police to set up cones and direct people to park on the shoulder, was not unique to the South Valley office.
“I would say it’s pretty consistent,” he said. “Currently we only have four offices that have drive-thrus along the Wasatch Front.”
Some people took to social media to voice their frustration, including Josh Clark, a Cottonwood Heights resident who was trying to get temporary tags for his motorcycle.
I’ve been in the drive through line at the DMV since 730 this morning. How’s your day?— Josh Clark (@Joshclark_15) April 3, 2020
Clark said when he got off the highway at 7:45 a.m. he could already see the long line of cars.
“When the cops finally came to do some traffic control it got a little more organized,” he said. “But it was still pretty bad.”
At about 1:30 p.m. Friday, Samuel Malibay, who had been waiting in line for almost six hours to register his new car, was finally nearing the window. As the cars ahead of him pulled forward, he reached for the ignition only to realize his battery had died.
“My car is dead,” he said, poking his head out of the window of his red Chevy sedan. After asking around, Devin Groo, a diesel mechanic from Provo who had also been in line since 7:30 that morning, offered his help.
Groo drove his green Dodge pickup onto the sidewalk, popped the hood and took out a set of jumper cables. After a few minutes of deliberation, Malibay’s car sputtered alive, and he once more moved forward in the line.