Wait times at DMV offices across California are often measured in hours. Extended wait times have become so commonplace, the issue has gotten the attention of state legislators. Antiquated computer systems, understaffed offices, and the requirement for California drivers to go to the DMV in person for basic requirements that are fulfilled online or through the mail in many other states have all been identified as major issues, to the surprise of no one who has stood in a line halfway around the block on a summer day waiting to submit a half sheet of routine paperwork to avoid a fine or ticket. Whether California’s lawmakers act to improve the situation or not, there are many simple measures you can take to minimize your wait or avoid a trip to the DMV altogether.

How to Minimize Your Wait

Many Californians appear at the DMV with proof of traffic school completion to mitigate the cost or insurance impact of a ticket. It’s not necessary to go to the DMV or to court in California to drop off proof of traffic school completion. However, it’s a great idea to go to traffic school if you get a ticket and traffic school is offered as an option. In California, completing traffic school in the time specified on your ticket can eliminate the cost and insurance impact of a moving violation if you have a valid drivers’ license and you aren’t driving commercially on a commercial license. The full list of specifics and a complete list of certified traffic schools can be found on the California Courts website.

Preparation Help Immensely

If you’re unsure whether you have to take a trip to the DMV, you should visit the California DMV website to make sure you’re required to go before you waste time in line. The California DMV website is well organized and easy to use. There’s a chance whatever business you have with the DMV can be taken care of on the website. If not, you can print the forms you need for your appointment, saving time once you get to the DMV office and eliminating the chance of waiting hours for your turn in line only to discover they don’t have copies of the form you need in stock (it happens). Most importantly, if you determine you must go to the DMV in person, you can schedule an appointment time on the DMV website.

Schedule an Appointment

Scheduling an appointment on the California DMV website is very easy. You can schedule most types of transactions online. If you’re not sure which DMV office is closest to you, there’s an interactive map with all current DMV offices and their hours. You might discover there’s a DMV close to your house that is newly opened or that you didn’t know about before. Once your appointment is scheduled, you can change or cancel it easily. The one problem with the appointment system is the slots at some offices fill up weeks or months in advance, especially for popular times. If your chosen office doesn’t have an appointment that’s convenient or timely for you, it’s worth checking other nearby offices; you might be able to find a slot that works for you at an office that’s slightly farther away than your usual one.

If you’re unable to schedule an appointment and have to wait in line with everyone else, there is one tool that can help you avoid the worst of the line delays: yogov.org has a page that automatically tracks wait times in most California DMV offices.