What to bring to the driver’s license bureau
Delbert Thomas, supervisor of the Driver’s License Bureau in Lawrence, in the I-70 Business Center at 1035 N. Third, reminds teens to bring these essential items when getting in line for an Instruction Permit or driver’s license:
• Birth certificate. You must have a state-certified copy, not a laminated card or a photocopy. “It can’t just be notarized,” he said.
• Social Security number. The card isn’t necessary, just the number.
• A parent or legal guardian. An uncle or a grandparent is fine, but only if the uncle or grandparent is your legal guardian. “They’ll have to sign an affidavit,” Thomas said. The parent or guardian also must have a valid ID card or driver’s license with a Kansas address, or some other proof-of-address for the child, such as a school report card sent through the U.S. Mail.
• Corrective lenses, if necessary. There will be a vision test.
• Money. The bureau accepts payments in cash or by check. No check cards. No credit cards.
Teens are pulling into a large parking lot in North Lawrence and crowding into a small storefront in the I-70 Business Center — all intent on squeezing through an ever-shrinking window in the calend
ar for securing an unrestricted driver’s license.
With new rules for teen drivers set to take effect Jan. 1, applications for Kansas licenses are up 50 percent at the Department of Motor Vehicles in the I-70 Business Center. The vast majority are from teens standing in line with their parents, clutching birth certificates and hoping to pass their first written exams outside of a formal classroom.
Ace the tests, and such licensees and holders of permits will be free to continue driving as others their age always have. No special rules about having a licensed driver at least 21 years old in the passenger seat, or being limited to driving only during specific hours, or being banned from talking or texting or doing anything else behind the wheel with a wireless communication device other than to summon help in an emergency.
“I just want to drive,” said Scott Lounsbury, a 14-year-old eighth-grader from Eudora who fiddled with his licensing exam book while passing the time in line. “I don’t even have a phone.”
Such youngsters are eager to embrace their grandfathered status, which give them a chance to drive earlier in their lives, for longer periods at a time, and with fewer restrictions than those who wait until the new year.
Delbert Thomas, the bureau’s supervisor, said the increased demand isn’t making his already complicated life any easier. Thanks to state budget cuts, his office at 1035 N. Third St., Suite 122, has been short-staffed during the past six months.
Now, with the new teen restrictions poised to hit the books on Jan. 1, he’s been forced to deal out warnings as his lines lengthen and payroll remains static. Even getting fill-in help from offices in Emporia and elsewhere has proven inconsistent.
“It’s crazy in here,” he said.
So follow his advice: Show up early. Be patient. And remember that while the office normally is open from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, the place is closed for holidays and may close a bit early on Thursday, New Year’s Eve.
Anyone looking to take a behind-the-wheel driving test must reach the bureau’s front desk — that’s not merely waiting in line, but actually advancing to the front of the line and dealing with a real-life examiner — by 4 p.m. to be helped on a given day, Thomas said. Anyone simply needing to take a written test must make it to the front of the line by 5 p.m. to be served.
“We shut the doors at 5:30,” he said.
The crunch is amassing statewide, said Terry Mitchell, chief examiner for the Driver’s License Bureau. An office in Wichita had teens lined up out the door soon after opening at 7 a.m. recently; the office in Burlington saw 30 teens on Dec. 18, or about the same number that normally would have come in over two weeks.
The totals only look to increase as Dec. 31 approaches this week.
“People see a line and they say, ‘Ah, I’ll come back,’” Mitchell said. “Don’t wait until the last minute.”
Bradley Harris isn’t worried. The 15-year-old sophomore at Free State High School spent more than three hours in line last Tuesday before walking out with a renewal of his restricted license a day before it was to expire.
He already had been grandfathered out of the new rules, but he and his dad wanted to get the renewal taken care of before their family hit the road for a 10-hour trip to Kentucky for the holidays.
“It wasn’t real bad,” Bradley said, “but the line kept getting longer and longer.”
All this, as the time for his friends and fellow teens to beat the deadline keeps getting shorter and shorter.