BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - More options for Mississippi residents will soon be available at driver station bureaus across the state.
Legislators and officials from the Department of Public Safety hosted a press conference Tuesday morning in Biloxi to discuss improvements that are being implemented in an effort to better serve residents.
Watch the full press conference below:
DPS Commissioner Marshall Fisher said it’s a top priority for his office to address concerns from citizens, including the hours-long wait times many driver service bureaus are seeing throughout Mississippi.
Right now, a trip to any Mississippi Driver’s License Bureau can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours.
“It’s no secret that we’ve had some issues in our stations,” said Maj. Ken Brown, Director of the Driver Service Bureau.
Multiple plans are being implemented to shorten lines and speed up wait times, including a program aimed at parents to help get their teenagers in and out quicker and during a more convenient time. The program – dubbed JumpStart – will allow students 15 years and older to schedule Saturday appointments for written and road tests, as well as allow them to receive a driver’s license.
“The JumpStart program will not only help with weekly wait times but is also intended as a convenient avenue for working parents,” stated Maj. Brown.
DPS recognizes the problems parents face when they have a 15 or 16-year-old student who needs to get a permit or a road test, said Brown. In order to help parents and students not have to miss work or school, the JumpStart program will allow teenagers to come in on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month to take their driving tests.
Parents will be able to schedule an appointment for the Saturday tests. The weekend tests are set to begin the second week of June.
"It’s mind-boggling because you want to find ways to get help those parents, whose kids get out of school at three, and they can’t get to the bureau before five to get a credential or a license. So, what we want to do is try something different,” Brown added.
Another initiative beginning July 1 is the Wait to be Next program, which will allow customers to go online and make an appointment at the driver service bureau. Initially, only six stations will be used for the pilot of that program, said Maj. Ken Brown, the driver service bureau director for DPS. Those six stations were not announced during the news conference. In the near future, an app will be available to help with that scheduling, said Brown.
Another thing in the works is an app called The Opinionator, which will allow citizens to provide feedback to DPS on the services they received. The real-time surveying system will allow the agency to reach a broader scope of customers through this technology. This system will be implemented in all driver license stations, and the collected data will be shared among staff as an opportunity to quickly see where improvements are needed.
“The Opiniator will provide customers with a platform to give constructive feedback in a manner that will assist the DPS Driver Service Bureau in developing solutions for the improvement of customer service,” said Fisher.
These programs are being made possible with legislative help, said Fisher. State lawmakers have allocated $3.3 million to DPS to use strictly for improvements to the driver service bureau. That funding includes money to raise the salaries of current employees and hire additional driver service examiners.
“We’re going to be able to give them a substantial raise out of this and expand some of our services,” said Fisher. “Hopefully by announcing this raise that goes into effect July 1, we’ll be able to hire more people which will help with some of the long lines.”
According to Fisher, there are currently 50 vacancies statewide for driver service examiners. Those staffing shortages have led to driver stations throughout the state being closed. The station in Hancock County has been closed four times just this month due to staffing. The George County station was also closed in March for the same reason.
Even with the statewide staffing issues, Mississippi driver station examiners served 2.2 million customers last year, said Fisher.
DPS and state legislators all agreed that changes are coming that will speed things up but that it won’t happen overnight. In the meantime, residents are being encouraged to utilize the programs that are being rolled out and to be patient as the other ones are implemented.
“There are things that can be done over and above just the funding side of it and what you’ve heard here today are those things,” said Sen. Brice Wiggins. “At the end of the day, the taxpayers and citizens are customers of the government. The government is here to serve them. Taxpayer dollars go to fund the drivers license services, to fund the public service division so they have a right to expect that they’re getting a quality product. It’s going to take a little bit of time but we would ask that the public be with us, listen to what they say, take advantage of the programs they are rolling out.”
To learn more about the services that are offered by the Driver Station Bureau, visit the DPS website HERE.