BMV line

A line of customers wait for their turn at the Mansfield office of the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Some had been waiting for more than 90 minutes when this photo was taken at noon Tuesday. 

MANSFIELD -- A crowd lined the sidewalk on Tuesday at the Mansfield Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

Many took shelter from the beaming sun and near 90-degree heat by standing under the awning. Others found a shady spot to sit on the curb.

David Lory sat on the south side of the Carrousel Antiques building, taking refuge in the shade of the large bush beside him. It was high noon, and Lory had only been waiting for about 10 minutes. 

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Lory had stopped by the BMV earlier in the morning and saw a line that wrapped around the block. So, he drove to the Shelby BMV office. Seeing it was no better, he returned to Mansfield.

A former Marine and Vietnam veteran, Lory was working part-time at a grocery store when COVID-19 and the ensuing lockdown came to Ohio. He cannot wear a face mask due to a medical condition, so he was laid off and is receiving disability payments. 

“When I was working, I was scared to death,” Lory said.

Susan Winter sat 10 feet away on a different curb, a disposable face mask and numbered ticket dangling in her hand. She’d been waiting for 45 minutes to get her driver’s license renewed.

“I figured it was going to be busy, so I thought I’d get started today and see if I could get in,” she said.

Winter seemed good-natured about the wait. After all, some of the people in front of her had been waiting for an hour and a half.

Lorraine Stafford was eager to get her plates renewed. Driving around with expired plates had made her incredibly nervous.

“It drove my anxiety through the roof,” she said.

Stafford stood in line with Carl Kaworski, who had to temporarily shut down his one-man trucking business in March after he couldn't get plates for his new truck.

“Thank God my buddy had a company I could go to,” he said.  

The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles reopened Tuesday, but is encouraging residents not to visit its agencies right away.

The bureau’s two-month closure has created a backlog of customers, and many of the services offered can now be completed from home.

Many services the BMV offers can also be accessed online, including renewing, replacing or exchanging a license plate, getting a registration card or sticker replacement and checking or paying reinstatement fees.

In addition, Ohioans with a license or registration that expired after March 9 are under a grace period during Ohio’s COVID-19 state of emergency. 

These driver’s licenses, commercial driver’s licenses, vehicle registrations and commercial vehicle registrations will remain valid until either 90 days after the declared emergency ends, or Dec. 1, 2020 -- whichever comes sooner.

If you do have to go the BMV, be prepared to wait outdoors or in your car. DMV offices are encouraging social distancing and limiting the number of customers waiting inside. Workers have been given masks, plastic gloves and workstation shields. Workstations are cleaned by hand after each customer. Customers are encouraged, but not required, to wear face masks.

Lindsey Bohrer, assistant director of communications for the Ohio Department of Public Safety, encouraged customers to check in online through the BMV’s Get In Line Online system, which sends a text notification when it is their turn.

Unfortunately, the Get In Line Online system was down for much of Tuesday.