It’s time to renew: 2013 boat decals expire June 30

May 23, 2013

Everett Marina with Mt. Baker

DOL image

OLYMPIA—Boating season is here, and the deadline for renewing boat and watercraft registration decals is right around the corner. All Washington state boat registrations expire on June 30.

Don’t let an expired registration spoil your day; remember to renew before you get out on the water.

 Boat registrations can be renewed online at the DOL website or in person at a neighborhood vehicle licensing office. Those who choose to renew at an office should make sure to note the registration number on the bow of the boat or watercraft and take that information to the office. 

 Due to budget cuts, DOL discontinued paper renewal notices for boats in 2010 and instead offered boat owners the opportunity to sign up to receive email renewal reminders. It’s too late to sign up for an email renewal reminder for this year, but boat owners can sign up online at dol.wa.gov to receive renewal reminders by email in the future.

Skip a Trip — Go Online. The Department of Licensing has a wide variety of consumer services available online. Please visit our website at dol.wa.gov.


Ride safely to the prom in a licensed limo

April 11, 2013
Limo poster

Don’t be taken for a ride by an unlicensed limo company.

Prom season is upon us, and many high school students will be trying to make their special night even more fun by hiring a limo.  The Department of Licensing reminds parents and students to check to see if the limo they hire is licensed by the state. 

 
If you’re planning to make your event extra special by using one of Washington’s quality limo services, we suggest you do your homework,” Department of Licensing Director Teresa Berntsen said. “Don’t be taken for a ride by an unlicensed limousine company.  Always check references and make sure the company is licensed before you hire them.”
 
Limousine operators in Washington are required to be licensed, carry sufficient liability insurance, and undergo annual safety inspections by the Washington State Patrol or City of Seattle. Chauffeurs must be at least 21 years of age, hold a valid driver license, complete a chauffeur training course and pass a State Patrol background check.
 
Berntsen said a website, Craigslist ad, or a simple advertisement in the phone book or newspaper does not guarantee the operator is licensed. Unlicensed limousine operators may not meet state insurance or safety requirements and it can be difficult to hold them accountable if problems arise.
 
To find out if the limousine service you plan to use is licensed by the state, visit the Department of Licensing website at www.dol.wa.gov/business/limousine/. Scroll down to the area for consumers, click on “Look up a business or professional license” and then “Search business license.”  If you do not see the business listed as a limousine company, please call 360-705-6744. They can help you verify that the limousine company is properly licensed.
 
DOL Video:  Renting a Limo / Ride in Style, Ride Safely

DOL wait times plummet due to shift in testing locations, popularity of online and mail services

February 26, 2013
dol.wa.gov

dol.wa.gov

(Olympia) A new state program allowing the private sector to conduct driver knowledge and skills testing has produced more good news for visitors to DOL offices: the shortest wait times in nearly a decade.

The new program allows driver training schools and school district driver training programs across the state to conduct driver knowledge and skills testing for new driver license applicants.

Moving those testing services outside of DOL removed some of the most time-consuming transactions at the agency’s licensing service offices.

In recent months, the average statewide wait time at licensing service offices has remained steady at 10 minutes.

Driver licensing offices are currently maintaining the best wait times we’ve seen in eight years, despite an 11 percent increase in licensed drivers, and the closing and consolidation of several licensing offices over this time period.

Shorter wait times at those offices are also attributed to service innovations, including expanded online and mail-in options.

In 2012, nearly one-quarter of DOL’s 3.4 million driver transactions were done by people who didn’t step foot inside an office—by mail or Internet. In five years, that percentage has grown from 5 percent to 23 percent.

The drop-off in foot traffic at those offices provides employees with more time to inspect identity documents and for spending more time at the counter to better serve customers.  It also allows more time for community outreach

To conduct driver tests, driver training schools must be licensed with the state or be part of a state-certified public school driver training program. They have to apply for the authority to administer driver testing, and are subject to audits and record checks.

After passing the tests, customers go to a licensing office to obtain their license. Customers are still required to pay the driver license application fee to DOL. Driver training schools will set the fee they charge for the tests.

The program is the final phase of implementing House Bill 1635, which gives the Department authority to contract with private driver training schools, school districts and motorcycle training schools to conduct some knowledge and skills tests. The bill was passed in an effort to reduce wait times in licensing service offices.

For a list of state-approved driver training schools, go to:http://www.dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/testing.html.


New app helps suspended drivers get their license reinstated

February 7, 2013

The process of getting a suspended license reinstated can seem daunting.  For many, it’s a labyrinth of trying to figure-out which courts and/or agencies must be contacted in order to clear-up unresolved cases.

But now, the Department of Licensing is offering a fast and simple solution people can use to piece all of that information together.

It’s a simple app on the DOL’s website, dol.wa.gov.

“We want to make it as quick and easy as possible for them to get their license back,” said DOL spokesperson Brad Benfield.

After the user enters some basic information, the online app provides a specific list of what that person must do to get his or her license reinstated.

“What we’re finding is that people are able to go online, use the reinstatements program, and systematically work their way through all of the issues that they need to work through to get their license back.   And as they continue to check in on it, those things that they’ve taken care of come off the list until the day when they find out that they’re actually eligible for reinstatement,” Benfield said.

That’s a huge departure from the common scenarios that’ve played-out for years:  people using their valuable time to go to a DOL office or calling the agency as they attempt to figure-out how to get their license reinstated.

Now, all of that information is at a person’s fingertips.  You might say the app puts you at the front of the line.

And it’s free.

Believe it or not, there are companies who charge to provide you with this same information.

Benfield also has this heads-up for people who’ve only  recently learned that their license will be suspended.

“Until that license is actually suspended, they’re not going to be able to use this system because it provides a snapshot of what’s going on with their record on any given day.  If their license hasn’t been suspended yet, (the app’s) not yet going to reflect that. “

The DOL recently produced a video about the app and posted it to its YouTube channel.

YouTube video:  http://youtu.be/LidYMIP6v0c

New license plates benefit 4-H, honor state flower

January 3, 2013

4h-and-stflwrNew specialty license plates featuring the 4-H clover and Washington state flower, the rhododendron, are now available.

Revenue generated from the sale of specialty plates not only goes to the state, but also goes to organizations associated with each plate.

For example, money collected from the sale of the 4-H plate goes toward activities to support the 90,000 Washington boys and girls that participate in 4-H.

And revenue from the state-flower plate generates revenue for garden associations statewide.

Specialty plates cost $40 more than standard plates; renewal costs $30.

Visit the DOL’s website at the links below to learn how to purchase each specialty plate.

4-H Plates

State Flower plates


Driver testing to be conducted outside DOL across the state

November 27, 2012

OLYMPIA— On December 1, the Department of Licensing will expand a new program allowing driver training schools and school district driver training programs across the state to conduct driver knowledge and skills testing for new driver license applicants.

“We started this program in King County and it has gone smoothly,” said DOL Director Alan Haight. “Now driver training schools in many other areas of the state are ready to conduct drive tests, which will remove one of the most time-consuming transactions from our offices. We think this is going to speed things up for other customers who must come into an office.”

As of December 1, driver knowledge and skills tests will no longer be offered in the following licensing service offices: Bellingham, Friday Harbor, Everett, Greenwood, Smokey Point, Renton, Federal Way, Lacey, Parkland, Centralia, Vancouver East, Vancouver North, Kennewick, Chelan, Ellensburg, Wenatchee, Davenport, Newport, and Spokane.

Previously scheduled drive tests will be honored in these offices. The Department of Licensing will continue to offer tests in areas that don’t have driver training schools nearby that offer testing.

To conduct driver tests, driver training schools must be licensed with the state or be part of a state-certified public school driver training program. They have to apply for the authority to administer driver testing, and are subject to audits and record checks.

After passing the tests, customers will go to a licensing office to obtain their license. Customers are still required to pay the driver license application fee to DOL. Driver training schools will set the fee they charge for the tests.

The program is the final phase of implementing House Bill 1635, which gives the Department authority to contract with private driver training schools, school districts and motorcycle training schools to conduct some knowledge and skills tests. The bill was passed in an effort to reduce wait times in licensing service offices.

For a list of state-approved driver training schools, go to: http://www.dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/testing.html.


Consumers should watch for flood-damaged vehicles

November 20, 2012
 
Thousands of vehicles damaged by the recent hurricane-related flooding on the east coast may find their way into the garages of unsuspecting consumers all across the nation in coming months.
 
While it is not yet known exactly how many vehicles were damaged or destroyed by the flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy, the number is expected to be very high. Many of these vehicles are expected to move from state to state as they are cleaned up and offered for sale at auto auctions, used car dealerships, and even by private parties. 
 
After being cleaned up, these vehicles may look like any other vehicle. However, there are significant mechanical, safety and health risks associated with flood-damaged vehicles.
 
Due to the high number of vehicles suffering damage, it is possible some of them will enter Washington and be offered for sale here, Department of Licensing Director Alan Haight said. And because dealers may not be aware of a vehicle’s past, consumers must protect themselves, he added.
 
“When purchasing a used car, consumers should always carefully examine and test drive a vehicle,” Haight said. “They also should have it inspected by a mechanic they trust and avoid any seller who refuses to allow an independent inspection.”
 
Dirty floodwater can cause rust and damage major mechanical parts like engines and transmissions. The water also damages electrical systems especially onboard computers that are often located at low points in vehicles, like under seats. Salt water is particularly damaging to the sensitive electronics in modern vehicles.
 
These tips can help to spot potential flood-damaged vehicles:
 
  • Before buying any used car, always get a pre-purchase inspection by a trusted mechanic. The extra cost may save money in the long run if major problems are discovered.
  • Ask to see the title of a used car. Check the date and place of transfer to see if the car came from a flood-damaged state and if the title is stamped “salvage.”
  • Use an online vehicle history tracking service like Carfax.com to get more information about a vehicle’s past.
  • Check all gauges on the dashboard to make sure they are accurate, and to look for signs of water.
  • Test the lights, windshield wipers, turn signals, cigarette lighter, radio, heater and air conditioner several times to make sure they work. Also, flex some wires under the dash to see if they bend or crack, since wet wires become brittle upon drying and can crack or fail at any time.
  • Check the trunk, glove compartment, and beneath the seats and dash for signs of mud, rust or water damage.
  • Look for discolored, faded or stained upholstery and carpeting. Carpeting that has been replaced may fit too loosely or may not match the interior color.
  • Check for a well-defined line, or watermark, and for musty odors resulting from mildew.
  • If the car’s history seems suspicious, ask the seller if the car has been damaged by floodwater. Get the answer in writing on the bill of sale.

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