DOL Director Teresa Berntsen honors organ donors, families for “ultimate act of kindness”

April 4, 2019
Teresa Berntsen speaks at award ceremony honoring organ donors

Department of Licensing Director Teresa Berntsen speaks Thursday at the Gift of Life Award ceremony honoring organ donors and their loved ones.

Calling organ donation “the ultimate act of kindness,” Department of Licensing Director Teresa Berntsen expressed humility, admiration, and gratitude for organ donors during an emotional ceremony Thursday at the Capitol building in Olympia. The event honored Washington state residents who gave organs in 2018 and their families.

The Gift of Life Award is presented annually by the governor’s office in partnership with LifeCenter Northwest, a federally designated nonprofit organ procurement organization that serves Washington, Alaska, Montana, and north Idaho.

Prior to introducing Gov. Jay Inslee, Berntsen said organ donation “exemplifies the graciousness of our humanity.”

The Department of Licensing has long played a key role in connecting people in need of organ transplants with donors. More than 99 percent of organ donor registrations in Washington are facilitated by DOL.

“Whether it is in person, online, or by mail, by saying ‘yes’ to donation through our agency, we are able to support legal authorization for people to donate all organs, eyes, and tissues for life-saving or -enhancing transplants,” Berntsen said.

As of March 1, 1,683 people in Washington were on the organ transplant waiting list, according to figures from the United Network for Organ Sharing. It is estimated 20 people die each day waiting for an organ donation.

Learn how to become an organ donor.


Picture this: Cameras at every licensing service office counter

March 26, 2019
Tacoma licensing service office

The Tacoma licensing service office served as the model for 25 other locations getting cameras at every customer service touchpoint. This will allow customers to stay with the same representative and have their photo taken without moving to another area.

After a pilot program at the Tacoma licensing service office (LSO) proved successful, the Washington State Department of Licensing is rolling out workstation cameras at 25 of its other offices.

The changes are expected to improve service and efficiency by keeping customers with the same DOL representative, at the same counter, throughout a transaction. Traditionally, customers were directed to another area to have their photo taken before returning to the original counter.

Best of all? Cameras at each station will reduce wait times.

“I am excited to continue to enhance workflow and the customer experience at our LSOs,” said Jean Fetterly, DOL’s acting assistant director for Customer Relations.

Tacoma aside, offices getting cameras include:

  • Lynnwood
  • Seattle West
  • Seattle Downtown
  • Kent
  • Shoreline
  • Puyallup
  • Parkland
  • Federal Way
  • Bel-Red
  • Spokane
  • Spokane Valley
  • Renton
  • Lacey
  • Everett
  • Bremerton
  • Poulsbo
  • Smokey Point
  • Bellingham
  • Kennewick
  • Union Gap
  • Vancouver North
  • Vancouver East
  • Mount Vernon
  • Wenatchee
  • Kelso

All work is expected to be completed by June 2019.

To install the 300 new cameras, 23 of the 26 locations — among DOL’s busiest — need facility modifications. In most cases, these will happen on normal off days. Due to limited contractor availability, a few offices will temporarily close as follows:

  • Seattle West: Friday and Saturday, May 17-18
  • Smokey Point: Tuesday, June 18
  • Spokane: Friday, June 21
  • Spokane Valley: Tuesday, June 25

Find an alternative location, if needed.

Starting in August 2018, DOL began testing cameras at four workstations in Tacoma. The pilot was a success, resulting in shorter transaction times. As a result, in mid-March DOL expanded the pilot to include all 14 workstations in Tacoma.

Feedback from customers and staff alike has been positive.

“This is the biggest change affecting office workflow in a positive way during my 24 years with DOL,” said Jay Glenn, a licensing service representative supervisor in Tacoma.


Updated Washington Driver Guide now available online and in licensing offices

February 20, 2019

Washington Driver GuideAn updated version of the Washington Driver Guide, which outlines the rules for Washington’s roads and highways, is now online and available for download in seven languages. Hard copies are available in field offices across the state.

All versions of the guide are free.

The guide’s first revision since July 2017 adds new material on, among other things, safely exiting a vehicle; work zones; railroad crossings and the Emergency Notification System (ENS); bicycle boxes and safety; and ferry holding lanes.

You’ll also find information about REAL ID, a federal law that goes into effect on Oct. 1, 2020. As of that date, a standard driver license will no longer allow a person to travel by plane or access certain federal facilities. Learn more about REAL ID and what you’ll need.

The Department of Licensing periodically works with state, federal, and local partners to develop the driver guide, which is used by licensing offices and driver training schools as part of curriculum and testing. It’s a great resource not only for aspiring drivers, but also for long-licensed residents seeking a refresher or clarification on evolving traffic laws.

The guide covers a wide variety of topics, regulations, and signage that drivers need to be aware of in order to safely and legally operate a motor vehicle in the state.

“Careful attention to our driving actions and decisions is critical to making our roads safe for everyone,” DOL Director Teresa Berntsen writes in the guide, noting that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 16- to 25-year-olds in the state. “The rules and best practices in this guide are proven tactics to save lives.”

To support DOL’s ongoing efforts to make Washington’s roads safer, Berntsen encourages readers to learn about Target Zero, the state’s ambitious traffic safety plan. The goal of the campaign is to reduce the number of traffic fatalities and serious injuries on Washington’s roadways to zero by 2030.

For that to happen, new and established drivers alike will need to lead the way. It starts with knowing the rules of the road, eliminating distractions, and patience and consideration behind the wheel.

To help, DOL offers a wealth of information on its website. You’ll find practice driver tests in English and Spanish, as well as step-by-step instructions for getting a license.

The latest version of the Washington Driver Guide features cover scenery from the Columbia River Gorge and is available in English, Spanish, Chinese (traditional), Korean, Russian, Vietnamese, and Japanese. There are separate guides for motorcycle and sidecar use and commercial drivers.


Washington signs driver license agreement with Taiwan

August 7, 2014

reciprocity-agreement-signing-080514-1OLYMPIA— A new driver license reciprocity agreement between Taiwan and Washington state will make life a little easier for drivers wanting to transfer a license from one place to the other.

The agreement allows Taiwan nationals living in Washington, such as university students, to skip the driving and written licensing exams if they are already licensed to drive in Taiwan. It gives the same option to Washington residents living in Taiwan.

“This agreement allows the Department of Licensing to honor the driving tests previously taken by a citizen of Taiwan just like we would when serving a currently licensed driver from another state,” Department of Licensing Director Pat Kohler said.

Driver licensing officials here and in Taiwan worked together to evaluate each other’s driver licensing requirements and testing processes. This ensures drivers who hold either license are fully qualified to operate a vehicle safely in both places.

The agreement was finalized at a signing ceremony on August 5th in Olympia. Director General Andy Chin of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Seattle joined Licensing Director Kohler in signing the agreement.

The agreement takes effect immediately. Drivers from Taiwan seeking a Washington license will need to visit the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Seattle to have their current license properly translated and verified prior to visiting a DOL driver licensing office.

Lt. Governor Brad Owen signed the agreement as a witness when it was signed by Taiwan’s Ministry of Transportation and Communications in Taipei during a trade and cultural mission in June.

“I see this agreement as a small, but important step—one of many—that have been taken in recent times to make commerce, travel and tourism that much easier between Taiwan and the state of Washington,” Owen said.

This is Washington’s fourth international driver license reciprocity agreement. The state has similar agreements with British Columbia, South Korea, and Germany.


State begins rolling out six-year driver licenses on February 10

February 6, 2014
WA DOL

WA DOL

Beginning February 10, all new driver license applicants will receive a license that’s valid for six years, as the Department of Licensing starts transitioning from a five-year to a six-year driver license.

New driver license applicants include individuals applying for their first license and those who are transferring their licenses from another state.

The per-year cost for a driver license will remain at $9 per year, but new applicants will pay for the additional year, which changes the fee from $45 to $54, not including the $35 application fee.

Adding a new motorcycle endorsement for up to six years will cost $2 per year.

Washingtonians who are obtaining their first Washington state ID cards will also be issued a card valid for six years beginning on February 10, at a cost of $54, or $9 per year.

Those renewing a current Washington driver licenses or ID cards will start transitioning to a six-year renewal period later this year.

In 2012, the Washington State Legislature authorized extending driver’s license terms from five to six years to improve customer service by reducing customer volumes and wait times in driver license offices.


New videos take viewers inside Washington’s driver test

November 3, 2010

by Mark Horner

Anxious about that upcoming driving test?  Wish you could see what to expect?  Well, now you can.  A new video series featuring Washington’s driving test is now available on YouTube.

In this initial release, the driving test series features the following four videos:

  Each segment in the series runs less than 3-minutes. And while these videos don’t cover the entire driving test,  they do address areas that often present the biggest challenges to new drivers. 

  The videos are produced by Department of Licensing staff and feature on-camera performances by DOL employees Katherine Knudson and Jay Glenn.


More Washington drivers choosing to “embrace life”

September 22, 2010

by Mark Horner

This week’s news that nearly 98-percent of Washington drivers are wearing seat belts reminds us of one our favorite videos of 2010.  Titled Embrace Life, the powerful video has received more than 11.4 million views since its January 29th debut on YouTube.  If you haven’t watched the video, it’s 89-seconds well spent. 

According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, 97.6 percent of our state’s drivers are buckling-up this year, an increase of 1.2 percent from 2009.

“The closer we get to 100 percent seat belt use, the more difficult it becomes to realize higher use rates,” said commission Director Lowell Porter.  “To jump from 96.4 to 97.6 percent is truly a significant improvement that moves Washington closer to its goal of zero traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030.”

To paraphrase the  unspoken message of the popular YouTube video, one might say that when Washington residents settle into a car or truck,  more than ever,  they are choosing to embrace life.

-watch the video, Embrace Life