Paying DMV fees too early can be a headache: Roadshow

Q: After getting a renewal notice from the DMV, I promptly sent it in with payment to allow time for the DMV to process it through these COVID-19 times, only to get it returned marked as “too early” and mailed back with the original enclosed check. Apparently, it is possible to attempt to pay too early, but I am startled that the payment wasn’t just held, and then processed when it was time.

Alan Penzotti, Campbell

A: If a vehicle’s registration expiration date is more than 75 days away, the DMV cannot collect payment and will return your check. If you use the online renewal service, you’ll get a message back saying your fees are not due, and it will ask if you’d like to place a replacement order.

You can also call the DMV at 800-300-7311 (extension 1) to renew your registration as soon as it’s eligible. The DMV can record your information, collect payment, and process your renewal as soon as its expiration date is within the 75-day limit.

Q: Highway 101 southbound in San Francisco between Interstate 80 and Cesar Chavez has a giant 40 mph sign as if there is road work being done, although I do not see any work. I regularly drive in the far right lane at 40-45 mph and always get a car behind me, flashing its lights at me and often honking their horn aggressively. Cars in other lanes are going over 60, making this stretch dangerous. Should Caltrans raise the speed limit to 50?

Micah Brown, San Francisco

A: The 40-mph limit will remain in place a few more days for follow-up work of the Alemany Circle project. Some of the work is below the freeway, and permanent elements are still being constructed that may require drivers to reduce their speeds. Temporary traffic control and safety items are present, such as K-rail, orange signs and crash cushions. More work is scheduled to take place involving lane reductions and full highway closures.

Q: A few unhappy readers wrote in about your comments on lowering the windows 3 inches to prevent the spread of COVID-19. I just wanted you to know your column is the first thing many read, and for every person who objects to topics other than driving, speed, DMV issues, etc., the majority appreciate any and all guidance and advice you can share with your readers. I am always learning something.

Lynda Martinez, San Jose

A: Thanks. You made my day.

Join Gary Richards for an hourlong chat noon Wednesday at Look for Gary Richards at or contact him at or 408-920-5335.

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Author: Gary Richards