Florida

More than 1,400 Florida motorists affected by second driver’s license glitch

For the second time in two weeks, Florida drivers have had the frustrating experience of getting a new driver’s license that has the wrong address on it.

The latest mistake brings to nearly 10,000 the number of people affected, with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles blaming outdated computer equipment that it wants the Legislature to replace, starting with $7.4 million in the next state budget.

A state-issued driver’s license is the universal method of identification that Floridians use to cash a check, travel or apply for a job. Driver’s license data also is the electronic spine of the state database that verifies the identities of more than 12 million registered voters.

If any information on the license is inaccurate, it could cause problems.

In addition, state law says that when a Florida resident moves within the state, the license must be updated within 10 days or the driver risks a $30 fine.

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles said Monday that 1,402 drivers were mailed flawed licenses after they paid $27 each Oct. 8 and 9 to change their drivers’ licenses online to reflect a current address.

The state mailed the new licenses to the new address, but with the old address listed on the license. Two weeks ago, the state said 8,567 people had the same experience.

Spokeswoman Beth Frady of the highway safety agency said the affected motorists were mailed corrected licenses on Monday.

State motor vehicle officials again cited a “synchronization delay” in antiquated computer hardware that it wants the Legislature to replace. The state printed replacement licenses faster than it was updating the addresses in its own system.

In a legislative budget request sent to Gov. Rick Scott last month, the agency seemed to anticipate the latest computer problems and acknowledged a lack of senior staffers with expertise.

“The Department continues to face multiple challenges in delivering efficient services,” the budget request explained, “and supporting aging platforms with limited subject matter experts.”

Florida issues or renews several million drivers’ licenses each year.

Most residents get licenses through the offices of elected county tax collectors. But those who choose the option of renewing their license or changing their information online get their new license by mail.

Frady said the agency discovered the problem Friday and implemented new system checks, including manual reviews of all changes to drivers’ licenses.

“We’re concerned for our customers,” Frady said. “We understand that it’s an inconvenience for them.”

She said the glitch underscores the need for more money for system improvements. “We are being 100 percent reactive,” Frady said. “We don’t like that and our senior leadership team doesn’t like that.”

The highway safety agency is under the direction of Scott and the three elected Cabinet members.

The agency said it was being totally transparent in coping with its latest customer service headache and held a Monday afternoon conference call with the executive board of a statewide tax collectors’ group to explain what happened.

“Safeguards have been put in place to minimize the risk of a reoccurrence of data synchronization delay,” the agency said in a memo to tax collectors.

Of the 1,402 motorists affected by the latest mistake, 209 live in Miami-Dade County, 189 live in Broward, 106 live in Hillsborough, 78 live in Pinellas and 35 live in Pasco.

Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano said Monday that the latest embarrassment illustrates that a state-run license issuance system would be a disaster.

“They ought to take all of this and turn it over to the tax collectors,” Fasano said. “Just give it to us.”

Contact Steve Bousquet at bousquet@tampabay.com or (850) 224-7263. Follow @stevebousquet.

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