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DMV wait times skyrocket after people queue up for new Real ID licenses

In Knox County, people waited more than three hours just to get the new Real ID license. No need to rush: You have plenty of time before Oct. 1, 2020 arrives.

It's a very, very busy time at Tennessee DMVs right now.

The new Real ID-certified driver's licenses rolled out in Tennessee on July 1, and many people were very eager to get one to ensure they won't get stuck at the airport when Oct. 1, 2020 arrives.

If you're unfamiliar with what 'Real ID' is, it's a new list of federal standards for all U.S. driver's licenses that each state has or will be implementing. Tennessee made the change on July 1.

The new Real ID licenses are functionally no different than the old licenses, but they have a gold star on them -- and that gold star will be important on, you guessed it, Oct. 1, 2020. You're going to see that date mentioned a lot.

You do not need the new Real ID license to drive or have as a standard ID if you already have a valid TN driver's license, period. When the very-important-to-remember Oct. 1, 2020 date arrives, your old license will still remain valid for all purposes except one: TSA checkpoints at airports will stop accepting any license that isn't Real ID with the gold star on it. 

So if you are an adult and don't have a Real ID license on Oct. 1, 2020 -- you'll also need to bring a U.S. passport or military ID (or one of these TSA-approved forms of ID) with you to the airport  -- else you're going to have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day and possibly miss your flight.

RELATED: Tennessee Real ID: Everything you need to know

►10LISTENS: Answering your questions about Real ID

►READ MORE: Does your driver’s license have a gold or black star? If not, you may not be able to fly in 2020

Because it will be essential for future air travel, many people aren't waiting to get one. 

DMVs like the one off Strawberry Plains Pike in Knox County were incredibly busy Tuesday with an influx of people trying to get the Real ID licenses. Knox and Hamilton counties had the second-highest number of people heading to the department, and some even waited in line three hours or more.

Melissa Long, the regional director for driver services, said there is absolutely no need for people to immediately rush and wait in abnormally long lines to get a Real ID license yet since it's not going to be of any real benefit until Oct. 1, 2020 for those who don't regularly need to pass through federal checkpoints. 

"This is not needed. If they just slow down and wait just a little bit, everything could run just a little bit smoother and the wait times. We don't want people coming in and having to wait for a real long period of time," she said.

You won't want to wait until the last minute, though, and you definitely won't want to be anywhere near the DMV when November and December of 2020 arrive. Imagine all the joy you'll have waiting in line for hours with hundreds of others who booked flights, but forgot to get their Real ID license.

Even if you don't have any flights planned on or after Oct. 1, 2020, it would still be a good idea to get the new Real ID license before Oct. 1, 2020 on the off chance you need to catch a flight unexpectedly. 

To spread the lines thin, it would be best to pick a random weekday morning or afternoon over the next 15 months to head over to the DMV to take care of it.

To get a Real ID license, you'll need to bring one document to the licensing center proving you are a U.S. citizen, one proving your social security number and name, and two forms of proof you reside in Tennessee. You can find what documents they accept at the DMV for proof here.

You'll also need to pay $8 to replace your current license, or $12 if you've already had to replace your Tennessee license at least once before in the past. 

Once more for good measure: Even though you can get it in Tennessee, actually having a Real ID driver's license won't actually matter for most until Oct. 1, 2020 (but you will still want to get one before then). Save the date and set a reminder for yourself!

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