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DMV needs more online services, audit finds

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles should offer more services to the public online, including vehicle registration renewals that many other states have offered for more than a decade, according to a legislative audit."Providing transactions such as registration renewal, driver's license renewal and special plates purchasing online would save the agency money, increase convenience and cost-savings to customers, and increase the efficiency of service at DMV centers," the audit said.West Virginia is one of three states that do not allow motorists to renew their registrations online, according to the audit released earlier this week.That issue isn't a new one in West Virginia, and auditors said the benefits of doing so are obvious. Legislative auditors first suggested in 2002 that the DMV begin offering online registration renewals as a way to save the state money and make the service more convenient. That audit noted that the estimated cost of online renewals per transaction would be about $2.37, less than half the cost of in-person renewals at $4.96 per transaction.At the time, DMV staff told auditors they supported the move to online registration renewals and were working on pilot projects in Nicholas and Wayne counties. But when auditors followed up in 2005, they were told by DMV staff that lobbying efforts by sheriffs in the state had prevented the development of an online registration renewal system, according to this year's audit.The state's sheriffs are also able to process vehicle registration renewals and charge a fee for doing so. However, auditors said that often results in information and payments not being sent to the DMV until several weeks after a transaction. The audit also noted that California and Virginia saw substantial savings and reduced wait times at their DMV offices after online registration renewals began because fewer people needed to show up in person.
In the agency's response, DMV Commissioner Steve Dale said that in order to offer online vehicle registrations, the state needs to develop online verification of personal property taxes and insurance information. He wrote that efforts in both areas are ongoing. Of the state's 55 counties, only 38 provide personal property tax information online.Other services the audit says should be offered online include driver's license renewals, which 27 other states offer.Dale wrote that the DMV supports legislation authorizing online driver's license renewals and extending the renewal period from five years to eight. He also said that the DMV is working to accept credit card payments online, which would eliminate the need for DMV staff to take credit card numbers and information over the phone.But while auditors said the DMV wants to offer more services, "there is no indication as to when this might happen."The audit also says the agency could be more transparent on in is website. The audit suggests it could provide a link to the DMV's budget, the names of agency officials and information on how to submit a Freedom of Information Act request, as well as a map to the agency's headquarters and link to translate the page into languages other than English."The Division of Motor Vehicles is the most visible face of state government and touches more residents of this state than any other state agency," Dale wrote.
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