Murphy signs bills that will get some drivers out of long MVC lines

Posted Sep 10, 2020

Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday signed two bills into law that should help ease the long lines and multiple hour waits at state Motor Vehicle Commission agencies in New Jersey.

The bills, passed by the state Legislature last month, allow the MVC in the state to use old photos of drivers age 65 and up for more than eight years so they can renew their licenses online and establish appointments for seniors and drivers with certain medical conditions who can’t wear a face mask.

Murphy also signed a bill that gives new state residents 120 days, instead of 60, to register their vehicles and get New Jersey licenses during the COVID-19 health emergency. Both laws take effect immediately.

“This legislation will reduce wait times and allow our vulnerable populations to have the access they need to obtain critical services,” Murphy said in a statement.

MVC agencies were closed for four months earlier this year as a precaution to reduce spread of he coronavirus. The agencies reopened on July 7 to a backlog of drivers who could not conduct their business online and to go to agencies in person.

“This legislation will reduce wait times and allow our vulnerable populations to have the access they need to obtain critical services,” Murphy said in a statement. “The temporary, but necessary closure of our MVC facilities earlier this year has resulted in an undeniable burden on many residents.”

Several drivers interviewed while waiting in line at the Wayne MVC agency Thursday morning were seniors or relatives of seniors holding their place in line and said signing the bills into law would help them. Another man who moved from New York was on his third trip to transfer his license and faced a fourth to register his vehicle.

Allowing photos to be reused permits seniors to use the MVC’s “Skip the Trip” service that allows renewal of licenses by mail, said Sue Fulton, MVC Chief Administrator.

One of the bills also sets up an appointment system one day a week for seniors and people with certain medical conditions to register a newly purchased, newly acquired, or transferred motor vehicle at some agencies.

Those appointments are also open to drivers who cannot wear a facial covering or mask due to a medical condition that is certified by a medical doctor or osteopathic physician. Those drivers would also have to fill out an MVC form to use that service.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, businesses across the nation have designated seniors-only hours for elderly residents. I am pleased the MVC will now do the same,” said Assemblyman Dan Benson, D-Middlesex, a co-sponsor. “Seniors will be able to access MVC services while largely avoiding crowds. Extending the time the MVC can use stored photos will limit the number of times seniors need to visit the MVC.”

The bills had bi-partisan support including from state Sen. Anthony M. Bucco, R-Morris, a co-sponsor of the bills that allowed photos to be used longer than 8 years.

“We shouldn’t force people to go to the MVC just to get a new picture taken when they already have a digital picture stored in their computers,” Bucco said.

Both bills will allow more drivers to use the MVC website and reduce the lines and wait time for those who still need to visit an agency, he said.

“It’s not a full solution to all of the problems that plague the MVC, but it’s progress that will help many drivers,” said Bucco, who had been critical of the agency reopening process and questioned how much planning when into it.

Still to be determined is if the MVC or Murphy will extend the expiration dates of drivers licenses and other documents to further reduce agency lines. Several states have extended those expiration dates to the end of 2020 and two have extended them until 45 days after the COVID-19 crisis is over.

“We haven’t said no to extensions,” Murphy said on Wednesday, referencing some more modest extensions the state has already approved.

Other MVC related bills to reduce lines and wait times are still pending in the state legislature.

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