Go now or wait?
May 8, 2020 7:43 AM   Subscribe

My driver's license expires in late August. I live in Minnesota, where infections are rising dramatically and are expected to peak in July. Should I go to get it renewed now or wait until mid-August? Also, what time of day and where to go?

I have the use of a car and can drive to a suburban location or I can go to a city one. We're under a stay at home order which will expire on the 15th, but the centers are open. I expect that the governor will reopen the state after the 15th, stupid as that is, because he is under a lot of political pressure.

My partner and I both have risk factors, my partner especially.

I am feeling that I ought to go now, but maybe August?
posted by Frowner to Law & Government (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Correction - the service centers are not open now, but certainly will be soon. I assume there will be a rush at least at first - better to brave the rush or wait a bit?
posted by Frowner at 7:46 AM on May 8, 2020

I'd wait as long as possible. Are you able to renew online with a grace period for getting your photo taken?
posted by DoubleLune at 7:50 AM on May 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

There's an extension - if this is still going on in August, you have two months after the month in which the end of the emergency is declared to renew.

When you do go, the MN driver's license people ask you to pre-fill in some forms electronically for faster service here. I'd also call the branch you might go to to ask about what the "new normal" procedures are - for example, how will the vision test work?
posted by mdonley at 7:52 AM on May 8, 2020 [5 favorites]

When I lived in MN, I would go to the Hennepin County building downtown (at like 5th and Portland or so), which is not a DPS office, but a county service center hidden in the basement. Going first thing in the morning was always sparsely populated. (I think I went about four times over the course of a year, long story.) My guess is that the same would apply to anywhere that offers neither the written nor road test (which probably means the various not-actually-DPS-locations).

(Coincidentally, I don't remember a vision test for the renewal, but the combination of wearing glasses (and thus already having the restriction) and age might have exempted me, or I could just be misremembering.)
posted by hoyland at 8:05 AM on May 8, 2020

Also note that the license extension is not tied to the stay-at-home order but to the state of emergency, so the stay-at-home could be lifted and an extension still granted. And extending the expiration dates of people's licenses will probably be very politically popular.
posted by mskyle at 8:49 AM on May 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

The first few weeks after lock down are going to be the riskiest time by far to do things like renew a license, because everyone not concerned with safety will go first. There's no reason at all to do this in the near future, wait until at least July
posted by JZig at 9:05 AM on May 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

I would just wait until August. You have until late August to renew. I'm a procrastinator by nature, but I don't see the benefit to renewing early in this case.
posted by hydra77 at 9:11 AM on May 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm in the same boat as you -- in MN, and both me and my wife renew in June -- and I'm holding off as long as possible.

Have you gotten your renewal reminder postcard yet? Mine has a bunch of instructions (not COVID19 related, but very helpful) and the "How do you renew?" instructions say you can pre-apply online at drive.mn.gov; this at least gets a tick-mark in the "citizen is aware of their responsibility" column.
The post card also says to go to dvs.dps.mn.gov which does have a banner explaining COVID19 reponse info; also it says you can call 651-297-2005 for info as well.

If things are still bad when my drivers-license expires, I can't imagine police officers are going to be angrily writing out tickets for expired drivers' licenses, this is a unique situation and there's going to be some allowances made if it means keeping people safe vs bureaucratic paperwork that was scheduled five years ago.
posted by AzraelBrown at 9:15 AM on May 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Okay, I'm leaning towards waiting. If nothing else, that gives them time to come up with safer practices, or maybe just issue a blanket extension. I'd be glad to hear more opinions and/or information too.
posted by Frowner at 9:17 AM on May 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

(I missed my edit window, but the drive.mn.gov page isn't clear -- even for renewals you click "Pre-Apply for a Driver's License or ID", it asks for your existing drivers license number and then many of the questions are pre-filled with your current license info; it mentions renewal cost but doesn't ask for money, and repeatedly reminds you that you will need to go into an actual DMV office to finish)
posted by AzraelBrown at 9:22 AM on May 8, 2020

I'd go sooner than later; the DMV in Minnesota has been an order of magnitude more uncaring and incompetent than in the other three states I've lived in during the best of times. If the virus does get worse, I'm not confident that it will be able to function at all.
posted by Kwine at 9:59 AM on May 8, 2020

Word of warning, I don't know if they're still offering them but last time I got my MN license renewed the did not by default go with the real ID complaint version. I did not know this until I got my ID in the mail and it had a big "NOT VALID FOR FEDERAL IDENTIFICATION" warning on it. Make sure you ask whenever you end up going to be sure that it's the compliant one.
posted by Ferreous at 10:20 AM on May 8, 2020

You can get your DL renewed at the AAA office in St Louis Park. I doubt they are open now, but they always have short lines and pretty friendly. I would wait until August at least and then decide based on the extensions in place at the time.
posted by soelo at 11:02 AM on May 8, 2020

I’m in MPLS and mine expires this month, therefore extended through the end of July. I’m waiting as long as possible to see what the Hennepin County service centers decide to do. Thus far they’re all closed except for a drive-through pilot in Maple Grove for vehicle registrations (no license renewals). As mentioned upthread, the AAA in St Louis Park is in normal times my first DMV choice, with early morning Government Center as my second choice. I’d avoid the Midtown Global Market service center if it ever opens up again - it is usually a very crowded basement.
posted by Maarika at 11:16 AM on May 8, 2020

If I left it to the last minute I would be concerned about getting there, feeling unsafe, but still pressured to get it done because at that point there's no other choice - if you leave some buffer you can always come back the next day at a different time, next week, etc. I would try and go earlier, if you think you'd be able to make a judgement on whether or not you feel safe when you get there and leave if circumstances don't look good (crowding, no procedures in place, etc). If your circumstances are such that you would only have one shot at it, I would wait.
posted by btfreek at 11:40 AM on May 8, 2020

Response by poster: Maybe wait until early August?
posted by Frowner at 11:49 AM on May 8, 2020

The last time I renewed mine was a couple years ago at the Southdale location, first appointment of the morning and the place was a ghost town, but I would be concerned that as people are having to wait due to closures, normal rules as to busy-ness will not apply to anywhere, even far-flung places.

If it were me, when things do officially open up, I would try to seek out the absolute earliest appointment available as far as you’re willing to travel and just bang it out. Just because my sense is that it will get better and then worse again, and you don’t want to be stuck without a valid ID.
posted by padraigin at 9:38 PM on May 8, 2020

You could contact local free or low-cost legal services organizations (MeFi Wiki) that focus on reasonable accommodations (MN Legislature) and related disability rights (MeFi Wiki) to find out if there are ways to seek an accommodation, because there may be a solution that unfortunately isn't obvious on the DMV website (at least not yet), and an attorney in your jurisdiction could hopefully help determine your options fairly quickly.
posted by katra at 10:13 PM on May 8, 2020

Response by poster: So I've been thinking about this and my partner is still recovering from surgery, not totally able to walk around yet. I'd like to wait to do something risky until they're up and about, because not only will this make things better if we (god forbid) get sick, but they'll be stronger and have better lung capacity since they won't just have been lying in bed most of the time, so hopefully won't be as much at risk. Also, my thought is that the DMV will probably need some time to implement good social distancing practices - so many people seem so lackadaisical about them. So maybe wait until early August (since cases are supposed to peak in July, although supposedly the governor will be talking about a new model on Monday), call around and drive out to the least busy one?
posted by Frowner at 11:43 AM on May 9, 2020

Response by poster: I mean, on the one hand there will be more cases in the state by that point, but on the other, I'm hoping that everyone will be taking it very seriously, and I'm also hoping that there will be some kind of extension if things are still bad. My worry is that I'll go out there in the next couple of weeks, it will be crowded and awful, they won't be sanitizing things correctly and will still have the old "stick your face on the thing" vision test and I'll get sick.
posted by Frowner at 11:45 AM on May 9, 2020

Frowner, great news! You can now renew your MN license online. Details here. I just did it, and it was easy - you just need to use your checking account info instead of a credit card.
posted by Maarika at 6:31 AM on June 5, 2020

Just a followup: I had a day off work this past Monday, and my wife and I had both done our online preapproval, so we went to the DMV in Moorhead. First step is a line (social distancing spots stuck to floor) to get on a list; you leave your phone number and then you go out to your car to wait. It was about 45min, and then we got called. Then you wait in a shorter line (more enforced social distancing via chairs to sit in), until a DMV person is available, and the rest went like normal. After doing the eye test, the test machine and surrounding area was very thoroughly disinfected. The pens we used to sign things were not returned to the counter; we were told to keep them. About the only thing which was seemed slightly at risk was they take your driver's license to a machine in back which punches holes in it and then bring it back to you, so it's out of sight for a while (but if you ask I bet they could disinfect it for you).
posted by AzraelBrown at 1:09 PM on June 19, 2020

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