A picture of a smiling Armando Quezada with state Sen. Mo Denis at the Sahara Avenue DMV office told one story of success with the new driver authorization card Friday.
Quezada might be the first Nevadan to complete the paperwork and driving tests to receive the card, which allows qualified residents who are not U.S. citizens to legally drive in Nevada.
Denis, D-Las Vegas, who authored the bill establishing the cards, described Quezada as the first person in Nevada to complete the process.
Denis and members of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada spent several hours Thursday at the Department of Motor Vehicles’ Sahara branch to help answer questions on the first day the card was offered.
Offices around the state saw hundreds of people visit to apply and ask questions about the new card.
Quezada, 45, a musician at the Lindo Michoacan restaurants in Las Vegas, said he began preparing several months ago to apply for the card.
He obtained the necessary documents and had one translated. He studied the driver handbook and attended an informational meeting on the new cards.
“I drive carefully, but I know more people drive poorly,” he said. “This opportunity is so important because people need to learn how to drive the right way.”
Quezada, who has lived in Nevada for three years, said he took the written test Thursday and passed. He then made an appointment to take the skills test Friday, and he passed that. He should get his new card in the mail within a few days.
Most residents applying for the card Thursday were not as successful as Quezada.
Even so, those who worked at the Sahara branch on Thursday called the first day a success.
Astrid Silva, immigration organizer for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, said a lot of people who showed up at the Sahara office were just seeking information about the new card.
“For a new process that is so big, it went fairly well,” she said. “I think it went as smoothly as it could have gone.”
But many who applied for the cards later failed the written test, Silva said.
A lot of the people applying at the office did not realize they would be taking the written test the same day, she said. As a result, they had not read the driver handbook and so did not answer enough of the questions correctly to pass.
They will have to pay another $10 to take the test again.
Silva counted nine who passed but said there could have been more.
“There was a lot of disappointment,” she said. “Some people were on the verge of tears.”
But there was a lot of education too, Silva said.
Denis said Friday the process went well for the first day. DMV officials did a good job, and those waiting in line were patient, he said. There were big crowds, but the DMV offices were not overwhelmed.
“People didn’t mind waiting in line,” he said. “They’ve waited many years for this.”
All Nevadans will benefit from the program, which is offered in several other states, because the roads will be safer, Denis said.
Silva said PLAN, an umbrella advocacy organization that represents more than 40 liberal-leaning groups in Nevada, is working to educate those who want a card about the process so they know to read the handbook before applying.
The Spanish-language version of the booklet, which was translated at no cost to the DMV, is available online only, she said.
Silva said so many people had applied by noon Thursday that officials at the Sahara office stopped issuing numbers for the line. There was about a 300-person wait to take the written test at one point, she said.
“Unfortunately most of them didn’t pass,” Silva said.
Others did not bring the proper documents to show Nevada residency, such as rent or utility receipts that reflected the previous 60 days, she said. Some brought the documents, but they were several months old.
The second day of the new process got off to a bit of a rocky start Friday when the DMV computer system had a failure that shut down all applications at its offices around the state.
The failure had nothing to do with the crowds seeking driver authorization cards but was related to an air conditioning system failure, a DMV official said. The failure caused a leak that shut down the servers.
The system was back up about 8:30 a.m., but the problem did cause delays. A similar problem occurred Dec. 29.
Also Friday, Fran Clader, director of communications for the California Highway Patrol, said the agency will honor Nevada’s driver authorization cards in California just as it recognizes driver’s licenses issued by other states and countries.
Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3900. Follow him on Twitter @seanw801.