Northeast Mississippi residents could have an alternative soon to waiting in long lines to renew their driver’s licenses.
Starting possibly as early as December, they can take care of their renewals at a kiosk, said Steve Simpson, the state’s commissioner of public safety.
Simpson, speaking Wednesday to the Daily Journal editorial board, said he plans to place a system of kiosks throughout the state to allow people to renew their driver’s licenses without what is often a long wait at the renewal sites.
He hopes to have six to eight kiosk pilot projects, including one in Tupelo, set up by the end of the year or early next year.
The driver’s license renewal kiosks will operate much like an automated teller machine.
“Mississippi will be the first to have it,” Simpson said during an hour-long interview. “Other states have expressed an interest… We think we will be the first to push it out to the public.”
Simpson was appointed to the job in May 2008 by Gov. Haley Barbour. The first time they met, Simpson said, Barbour told him that improvements must be made in driver services, which is the division responsible for driver’s licenses.
Several steps have been taken to meet that goal. One is a change in the law to allow the state Department of Education to notify the Department of Public Safety when someone drops out of school. That notification prevents a student from having to return to the driver’s license bureau each year to obtain a renewal.
If a student drops out of high school, his or her license is suspended. Plus, Simpson said a pilot project, which will include Lee County, will try to notify via mail those drivers who are eligible and most likely to take advantage of online license renewals.
People are eligible to get their license renewed online every other four-year period.
The most promising improvement in driver services, Simpson said, is the kiosks.
He said he hopes to have kiosk projects set up by December, but had no specific location yet for the Lee County kiosk.
Ultimately, he hopes to have a system of kiosks in the driver’s license bureau buildings and in other locations, such as malls, courthouses and student unions.
He said they will be owned by a vendor and would most likely cost users an additional $3 on top of the $21 renewal fee.
Simpson said he tested one recently and completed the process in less than two minutes.
The user slides the driver’s license in a slot and punches in the last four digits of his or her Social Security number. The kiosk takes a photo of the person using it, and if there is “one-to-one facial identification” with the photo already on the license, the process will continue. Payment is made on the spot with a debit or credit card.
If it’s the last day for renewal, the user will get a receipt to use until the new license arrives in the mail, which should only be a couple of days later, Simpson said.
The kiosk can’t be used if a home address or other key information has changed since the last renewal.
Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal