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DMV Is Really Behind On Issuing Real ID's. Like For Real

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Sample Real ID (Photo via California Department of Motor Vehicles)
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Only a quarter of California’s 27 million licensed drivers so far have gotten a new federally approved Real ID. That’s far behind the DMV’s goal and could be a problem come October, when you won’t be able to board a domestic flight without a passport or one of the new ID’s. Even Congress is worried.

Officials are bracing themselves for the increasingly likely possibility that folks will start pouring in too close to the deadline, increasing wait times and the DMV’s ability to keep up.

“We’ve been screaming from the rooftops, trying to get people to realize that Real ID is a pressing deadline... [because] people are going to have their vacays disrupted if they can’t get their Real IDs,” Steve Gordon, director of the California Department of Motor Vehicles, told KPCC’s Take Two.

Some of the steps Gordon says California is taking to prepare:

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  • Pour money into getting the word out: “We have a budget for advertising and we've been working with ad agencies, doing everything we can possibly think of.”
  • Staff up: Governor Gavin Newsom has increased the state’s DMV budget by $200 million and added 700 new employees, according to the LA Times. The result of those resources is already notable, Gordon says: “We’ve been working hard to remove delays from the system. This process started off a year ago at 28 minutes. Now we have it down to 10 minutes. So we’ve done a lot to make sure there's capacity and speed in the offices.“

It still might not be enough. Currently, most appointments for Real IDs are booked for three to four months in advance — meaning that you should make your DMV appointment today or try your luck as a walk-in. The one thing you shouldn’t do? Wait. Or else you might find yourself spending the holidays at LAX, watching your vacation flight take off without you.