New web tool helps consumers identify vehicle safety recalls

December 5, 2016

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that vehicle recalls are at an all-time high, meaning millions of unfixed and unsafe vehicles are on the road.

NHTSA’s new online search tool lets you enter a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to quickly learn if a specific vehicle has not been repaired as part of a safety recall in the last 15 years.

You can find NHTSA’s new VIN search tool at www.safercar.gov/VIN.

NHTSA stresses that vehicles in need of safety-related repairs should be fixed as soon as possible, and that doing so could save lives.


DOL vehicle licensing system will be down on December 10 for system replacement

November 23, 2016

drives-logoOn December 12, 2016, the Washington State Department of Licensing will begin using a new, state-of-the-art computer system for all vehicle and boat title and registration transactions statewide. This new system replaces a 30-year-old, text-based system with a modern system used successfully in several other states across the country.

The launch of this new system will have a few customer service impacts both before and after it is turned on Dec. 12:

  • Online vehicle tab renewal will be offline from midnight on Dec. 6 until the new system is turned on Dec. 12. Other vehicle-related online services, like online filing of a report of sale, online vehicle or boat change of address, and other types of vehicle or boat online transactions or look-ups, will be offline from the evening of Friday, Dec. 9 until the new system is turned on Dec. 12.
  • Licensing offices across the state may close a little early on Friday, Dec. 9 to ensure all transactions are finalized prior to shutting down the old computer system on Friday evening.
  • All vehicle licensing offices will be closed on Saturday, Dec. 10.
  • Following the launch on Dec. 12, customers may experience longer office wait times as vehicle licensing office staff become comfortable processing transactions using the new system. DOL is asking customers for patience in the days immediately following the launch.

“The new system is a tremendous new tool to make our jobs faster and easier,” Licensing Director Pat Kohler said. “We’ve invested in training to teach our users how to use it, but until they get comfortable processing real transactions with real customers, we expect office wait times to be a little longer than usual.”

Vehicle licensing customers can avoid longer wait times by taking care of annual tab renewals in vehicle licensing offices prior to Dec. 9 or online prior to Dec. 6.

The new system, called DRIVES, is being rolled out in two phases between Dec. 2016 and June 2018. The first phase replaces DOL’s obsolete vehicle and boat titling and registration computer systems. The second phase, scheduled for June 2018, will replace DOL’s obsolete driver licensing systems.

When completed, the new DRIVES system will provide all of our customers, employees and business partners with better, more reliable systems and processes, provide more accurate records for law enforcement use, and allow for faster and easier system changes to support new or changing laws and business processes.


Buyer beware of flood-damaged vehicles for sale

September 16, 2016

OLYMPIA—Following recent flooding in Louisiana that left as many as 100,000 vehicles seriously damaged, unsuspecting buyers across the nation are being warned to do their homework before purchasing a used vehicle.

Many of these vehicles are expected to be transported from state to state, repaired and put back on the market at auto auctions, used car dealerships, and even by private sellers.

Consumers in Washington should take extra precautions by adding flood damage to the list of concerns to be aware of when purchasing a used vehicle.

After being cleaned up, these vehicles may look like any other vehicle on the surface. However, there are significant mechanical, safety and health risks associated with flood-damaged vehicles.

Dirty floodwater causes rust and damages major mechanical parts and safety systems such as engines, air bags, anti-lock brakes and transmissions. The water also damages electrical systems, especially on-board computers that are often located under seats or in other low points in 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.

More DOL offices to offer enhanced and commercial driver license services

July 1, 2016

The Department of Licensing is expanding the number of offices where customers can obtain enhanced driver licenses, enhanced ID cards, commercial driver licenses and commercial instruction permits from 27 locations to 40 locations.

“Governor Inslee approved our plan to expand these services and it was funded by the Legislature,” DOL Director Pat Kohler said. “This will make getting enhanced or commercial licenses much more convenient for our customers and we expect it to help reduce wait times in many of our larger offices currently handling large numbers of commercial and enhanced driver license transactions.”

The Department of Licensing can’t offer these types of licenses in 16 of it’s smaller locations because they lack the staffing or equipment required to meet federal requirements for issuing documents that require applicants to provide proof of U.S. citizenship or proof of legal presence in the United States.

Enhanced driver licenses and ID cards, commercial driver licenses and commercial learner permits will now be offered at these driver licensing office locations:

  • Bellingham
  • Mt. Vernon
  • Oak Harbor*
  • Port Angeles
  • Bremerton
  • Poulsbo*
  • Downtown Seattle
  • Everett*
  • Lynnwood
  • Smokey Point
  • Shoreline*
  • Bellevue-Redmond
  • Kent*
  • North Bend*
  • Renton
  • West Seattle
  • Federal Way*
  • Lacey
  • Parkland
  • Puyallup
  • Shelton*
  • Tacoma
  • Hoquiam
  • Centralia*
  • North Vancouver
  • East Vancouver*
  • Kelso
  • Kennewick
  • Sunnyside*
  • Union Gap
  • Walla Walla
  • Ephrata*
  • Moses Lake
  • Omak
  • Wenatchee
  • Ellensburg
  • Colville
  • Spokane Valley*
  • Spokane
  • Pullman

* Newly added

Please note:  Once issued, enhanced driver licenses and enhanced ID cards can be renewed at any driver license office, online or by mail. Customers who need to apply for a name change on an enhanced driver license or ID card are required to visit one of the offices above. Also, commercial driver license customers must always renew in person at one of the offices listed above.


Fuel tax, some licensing fees will increase July 1

June 10, 2016

Washington State Department of Licensing blog logo

OLYMPIA—On July 1, 2016, state fuel tax and several licensing related fee increases will go into effect in Washington. The increases were approved by the Legislature in 2015 as part of Connecting Washington, a transportation package to fund many important, impactful transportation projects around our state.

These projects include highway and local road construction and maintenance, bike path and walkway projects, rail and transit projects, ferry system improvements and fish barrier removal.

The state fuel tax for both gas and diesel will increase by 4.9 cents to 49.4 cents. State fuel taxes provide funding for state, county and city transportation projects and maintenance, ferry construction and operations and other transportation-related needs.

The Enhanced Driver License fee will increase to $9 per year. This means the cost to upgrade a standard, six-year driver license or ID card to an Enhanced Driver License or Enhanced ID Card will increase from $18 to $54. Enhanced Driver Licenses and Enhanced ID Cards are available to U.S. citizens as federally approved identification that can be used in place of a U.S. Passport at U.S. land and sea border crossing stations.

Several commercial driver license (CDL) fees are increasing. The fee for obtaining a CDL instruction permit will increase from $10 to $40. CDL knowledge (written) tests will increase from $10 to $35, CDL skills (driving) tests will increase from $100 to $250 except for the school bus driver test, which will remain $100. The new CDL skills test fee will allow a driver to take one no-charge retest if the test isn’t passed on the first attempt.

The electric vehicle renewal fee increases $50, from $100 to $150. This fee is collected to mitigate the impact of electric vehicles, which pay little or no fuel taxes, on our state’s roads and highways.

Annual motor vehicle weight fees for passenger vehicles, motorcycles, and other types of vehicles up to 14,000 pounds that pay the state’s $30 basic registration fee will increase. The amount of the increase will range from $15 to $35 depending on the weight of the vehicle. For example, the motor vehicle weight fee for a passenger vehicle weighing 4,000 pounds or less will increase by $15, from $10 to $25.

Gross weight license fees for trucks, commercial vehicles, and other types of vehicles up to 10,000 pounds that are not subject to the state’s $30 basic registration fee also will increase. The amount of this increase also will range from $15 to $35. A new freight project fee will be collected on vehicles subject to the gross weight license fee with a gross weight of more than 10,000 pounds. This fee will be 15 percent of the gross weight license fee due at the time of annual registration.


It’s time to renew: 2016 boat decals expire June 30

June 8, 2016
Everett Marina with Mt. Baker

DOL

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.


May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

May 11, 2016

motorcycle safety transit ad

Rising temperatures in our state mean an increasing number of motorcycle riders will be out on our roads. These riders can be difficult to see on busy roads because of their smaller size and profile. Motorists should take an extra moment to look twice. A second look can save a motorcyclist’s life.

May is nationally recognized as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month to bring attention to motorcycle safety. In 2015, 72 riders lost their lives in motorcycle collisions. That’s 72 people who went for a ride and did not make it home.

“Motorcycle safety depends both on motorists sharing the road with motorcycles and motorcyclists making good decisions to help them reach their destinations safely.  If everyone does their part, I am confident we will see fatalities drop in 2016,” said Department of Licensing Director Pat Kohler.

To help drivers understand what they can do to make roads safer for motorcyclists, the DOL’s Motorcycle Safety Program created a motorcycle awareness video called “A Second Look” that has received hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube and millions of shares around the world on Facebook.

In 2015, 73 percent of the motorcycle fatalities were the fault of the rider, with the top three causes being alcohol or drug impairment, rider negligence, or excessive speed. Riders have the ability to minimize or eliminate these risks through continued training.

DOL’s Motorcycle Safety Program will promote the benefits of motorcycle rider training this year with an exciting new video called “Training is Everything”.

Emphasizing the importance of choices and consequences while riding, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission created the IT’S A FINE LINE website filled with interesting information and opportunities to get involved with state motorcycle safety efforts.

More information about motorcycle safety training and motorcycle endorsement requirements is available on the DOL website.

The playlist below features six videos concerning motorcycle safety, including the videos mentioned in this blog post.