Punk’d? DMV Website Hits the Wall Days after Being Sued by Ashton Kutcher

Friday, June 29, 2012


The Department of Motor Vehicles, the bureaucracy everybody loves to hate, has spent the past week explaining to frustrated customers why its newly retooled website has been up and down since Monday morning, or more precisely, not explaining.

Spokespersons have consistently attributed the problem to an “ongoing internal connection issue” and alluded to heavy traffic strains on its system, but eschewed specifics, leaving observers to speculate about malware or hacking issues. It has been posting updates about the site’s progress on Twitter in, of course, 140 characters or less. Its last update for Thursday said the site “remains slow for some customers” but that service had been restored “in most cases.”

The DMV has been moving more and more of its business to the internet of late, utilizing Twitter and Facebook to handle some questions from the public, and making services accessible online that only used to be available at their famously overcrowded offices.

Some customers have gotten what amounts to a busy signal when they try to visit the website. Others reached it only to find a prominently displayed error message and some arrive at what looks like a functional site only to find all the links inoperative.

Comments sections in publications writing online about the crash were loaded with, as one might expect, frustrated and cynical would-be-patrons, some of whom wryly speculated that the crash might have had something to do with a $1.44 million breach-of-contract lawsuit filed just days ago by actor Ashton Kutcher, whose production company Katalyst Media produces the TV show “Punk’d.” The suit claims the DMV backed out of an agreement to let the company have access to DMV offices for filming of a half-hour reality show featuring the agency.     

Google’s online AdPlanner, which measures website traffic, estimates that the DMV website receives about 2 million unique visitors a year and had a major spike of around 25% in June. The average time spent on the site is 13 minutes. The agency’s visitors, who spend an average of 13 minutes poking around, display an interest primarily in vehicle licensing and registration, followed by vehicle codes and driving laws. The DMV gets nearly one-fourth as many online visits as the site run by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, according to Site Analytics, which pegs DMV’s traffic slightly behind DMV.ORG, a website created for people who find the official website somewhat lacking, but the nonofficial site services all 50 states.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Long California DMV Delays, Now Available at Home (by Jon Healey, Los Angeles Times)

California's DMV Website Experiencing Difficulties (by Hannah Madans, Sacramento Bee)

Ashton Kutcher's Company Sues DMV over Reality Show Contract (by Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times)

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