Reporting Stephanie Lucero
CARROLLTON (CBSDFW.COM) - Despite the extreme heat, parents and teenagers across North Texas have been lining up outside of the various offices of the Department of Public Safety. The eager teens have all completed their written test required to get a first-time driver’s license. But they are now learning that the hardest part about taking the road test is just walking through the door.
Some of the teenagers have been turned away by DPS officials several times because no employees are available to administer the road tests to first-time drivers. DPS officials are citing budget constraints, a hiring freeze and population growth for the lack of employees.
At one office in Carrollton, hopeful drivers have been camping out overnights to take part in this teenage rite of passage. The office works on a first-come, first-served basis, and is only able to administer about 40 road tests each day. There were already about 47 teens wrapped around the building two hours before the office opened on Friday morning.
More than 100 people were in line at the Carrollton office when the doors finally opened, and more than half of them were turned away.
“I can’t believe it,” said one Carrollton mom, “I had to set my alarm for 2 o’clock, because it’s her birthday, and try to get out here just so that she can get her driver’s license. From what I can tell, there’s a lot of people that have been here more than twice.”
“This is my sixth time at a DPS office,” said driver’s license applicant Sydney Pontheiu. “I’ve got to leave for school in the fall. I’m going to college. I don’t have a license. I just got a car. I’ve got to get it done.”
The parents waiting in line with their teens, many of whom have seen their children upset by this ordeal several times now, believe that there must be a better way of handling this procedure. “First of all, there’s no procedures on the door. That would be really nice, for the public to know exactly what the process is,” said mother Rosie Mendoza. “If you come, you have to come at 3:00 a.m. to make it through the door.”
“At a certain point, all of those people are going to start losing focus,” said parent Patrick Costa. “One of the things on the test is you don’t drive when you’re tired. All of these people are going to be driving when they’re tired.”
“To me, it doesn’t matter,” said 16-year-old driver’s license applicant Mustafa Qidwai, who was first in line at the Carrollton office on Friday after arriving at midnight. “But I understand how it could affect other people, like, they don’t really want to stay out late. But, to me, it doesn’t matter.”
Qidwai was confident that he would walk away with a driver’s license on Friday morning, but he was disappointed to learn that it was a two-step process. He paid an $11 fee on Friday and would have to return another day to actually take the road test. “I think it’s outrageous. I thought they should have said it on the website or something, that it’s a two-step process,” the teen said. “I guess not. I guess I wasted my time.”
There is hope for parents and teens who wish to avoid the long lines. Some DPS offices in areas outside of the immediate Metroplex are not seeing such high demand for first-time driving tests. Plus, the Texas Legislature has approved $63 million for the driver’s license bureau to expand into new facilities, but it will be months before any of the planned ‘super centers’ are opened. Until then, parents and teens will continue to wake up very early and wait in line.
“You do it because it’s your kids,” said mother Tanya Hart. “They want the same process as everyone else – they want to get their driver’s license.”