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Safety checks for registration renewals waived temporarily

Oahu motorists who renew their annual vehicle registration can now do so electronically without a valid safety check at least through May 31.

The state last month announced it would suspend the requirement that vehicle registrations be accompanied by a valid safety check. But the Department of Customer Services needed until April 3 to update its computer programming to no longer require a safety check, so the waiver was initially available only through mail-in registration.

With the recent adjustment in the software, those renewing online also won’t be required to input a valid safety check number, nor will those renewing at one of the six vehicle registration kiosks (at select Safeway and Foodland locations), Customer Services Director Sheri Kajiwara said last week.

The change is one of several made since satellite city halls and driver licensing centers were among the entities shut down in late March in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Safety check stations, likewise, were deemed nonessential.

A majority of the transactions typically done at satellite city halls and driver licensing centers can now be handled online, by mail or at the self-serve registration renewal kiosks, Kajiwara said. Among the few exceptions are those seeking a Hawaii driver’s license for the first time or are otherwise requiring road tests. Those transactions require inspectors to be physically in vehicles with the drivers, too close to practice social distancing, she said.

Employees who normally handle counter transactions have been reassigned to assist with processing online driver licensing and motor vehicle registration renewals, and help field what has now grown to between 900 to 1,000 telephone queries daily.

Another recent policy change allow those 72 and older to renew driver’s licenses by mail, provided their licenses expire sometime in 2020.

Since implementing the change March 24, 632 seniors have renewed their licenses online, Kajiwara said.

In a separate effort to assist people who’ve been inconvenienced, the city is notifying by mail, in the coming weeks, about 60,000 people eligible to obtain a gold star on their driver’s licenses or state ID cards that they can do so online. Those eligible are people who renewed their license after May 2014.

The urgency for those seeking a federally compliant driver’s license has abated since the federal government has extended the REAL ID enforcement date by a year to Oct. 1, 2021.

The temporary shutdowns of the physical customer serv­ices locations have forced people to shift their habits, Kajiwara said.

Vehicle registration transactions used to be conducted 50% online, 45% over the counter and 5% at kiosks. Since the closure of satellite city halls, 75% are now conducted online and 25% at kiosks.

As noted in Kokua Line last week, the city has canceled advance Aloha Q appointments made online, and those will not be restored in the order in which they were canceled.

Instead, appointments during the first month or two following reopening will be reserved for those whose licenses have already expired.

“We’re going to roll out appointments in phases to meet the greatest needs first,” Kajiwara said, acknowledging that this might upset some who’ve made appointments. “If you’re 72 and older, you have another option. If you’re going for the gold star, you have another year.”

Customer Services is starting to gear up for reopening the satellite city halls and driver licensing centers whenever they get the OK from Mayor Kirk Caldwell. A general stay-at-home, work-from-home order was just extended through May 31, but the mayor said he might open some facilities sooner if modifications can be made to reduce the possibility of contracting COVID-19.

CITY SERVICES ONLINE OR BY MAIL

Online:

>> Replacing a lost or stolen driver’s license or state ID

>> Obtaining a gold star (must meet certain eligibility)

>> Renewing vehicle registration

>> Reporting an abandoned vehicle

Via mail with forms found online:

>> Transferring motor vehicle ownership

>> Renewing vehicle registration

>> Renewing or obtaining new disability cards

>> Registering a moped or bicycle

>> Licensing a dog

For more information, go to honolulu.gov/csd. Or, call 768-3798 for general satellite city hall information or 768-9100 for driver’s license or state ID card information.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that those 72 and older can renew their driver’s license online. They can only do so by mail.

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