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Rules of the Road: Light Reading at the DMV

Updated on December 7, 2017
William F. Torpey profile image

Graduated NYU in 1964. Worked in NYC for 2 years in public relations then as reporter and editor before retiring from The Hour newspaper.

Department of Motor Vehicles, Norwalk, Connecticut, Office

Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles, Norwalk Office
Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles, Norwalk Office

Believe it or not, a visit to your local Department of Motor Vehicles can be quite educational. I recommend it to everyone.

Not long ago, I escorted my wife Ruth to the Norwalk DMV office on Main Avenue to renew her driver's license. We were met at the door by an official "greeter" who asked what he could do to help, then pointed the Mrs. to the correct line.

That was a big improvement over those days not too long ago when, on more than one occasion, I waited on the wrong line to get my license or registration before learning of my mistake.

Art Work on the Walls

This time, rather than sitting on the benches provided for the public, I wandered around the office a bit, just out of curiosity. There are a number of pieces of art hanging on the walls, tying-in, in one way or another, with the work of the Department of Motor Vehicles.

I was somewhat taken aback by one piece of art clearly portraying a driver in an illegal act (i.e., using a cellular phone while driving.) My first thought was, "That's inappropriate" in the DMV, but, upon reflection, I realized it would be worse for the DMV to censor the piece -- after all, it is art!

Meanwhile, the DMV greeter didn't seem to be busy, so I engaged him in conversation. I got in only one or two inane questions before more people flooded through the door, attracting his attention.

As the greeter went about his business helping bewildered patrons, I noticed a shelf containing some leaflets and booklets.

Rules of the Road

When I spied a booklet titled, "Connecticut Driver's Manual for New Drivers," my curiosity escalated. Of late, I've been anxious to review the Rules of the Road because I've seen so many people violate them that the only explanation I could imagine was that perhaps the rules were changed (For example, drivers often fly through flashing red lights without even slowing down and take right hand turns on red without stopping or looking.)

My request for a copy of the driver's manual was met with an immediate and friendly response. I began to read the 80-page illustrated booklet and discovered several fascinating facts. One thing I hadn't realized was that 16-year-olds could obtain a driver's license, but only after completing an approved driver education course. Also, drivers are still required to stop at flashing red lights.

The Incredible Point System

But the most incredible thing I came across in the booklet was the point system. It was the first time I really took a look at it.

It's a long list of specific violations showing the number of points given to the violators. The book states, "At 6 points we will send you a warning letter." Also, "At 11 points you will receive an automatic 30-day suspension."

Sounds OK, until you notice that negligent homicide with a motor vehicle nets 5 points; speeding nets 1 point.

If I'm reading it right, drivers may face a 30-day suspension of their license if they're involved in two negligent homicides -- and get caught speeding.

Isn't this a bit mild? To me, it's reminiscent of the Three Strikes and Your Out law. Two felonies are OK, but just don't get caught the third time!

I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaperof Norwalk, Conn., on Nov. 30, 1996. I now write my views on a wide variety of topics on HubPages. You can, too. It's easy, and free! Get paid for writing about what you love, or whatever interests you!. HubPages makes the technical part easy. Make friends and get help on its active forum.

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    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thanks, pjdscott, for your kind remarks. I'm living in New York now, and a police official told me today that criminal negligent homicide is severely punished here with lots of prison time and depends on the circumstances (alcohol, drugs, etc.) The Connecticut point system I referred to relates only to the driving privileges, not to sentencing, but the penalties are certainly a farce.

    • pjdscott profile image

      pjdscott 10 years ago from Durham, UK

      Your hub was quite incredible (and, as usual, most thoroughly researched and written). What, in practice, do US courts give for "negligent homicide"? Obviously it depends on the circumstances but...

      I would have to think seriously about driving through Connecticut or any other US state with such farsical penalties. In the UK I think the equivalent penalty is a 2 year driving ban, plus the courts might also give a jail (or suspended) sentence.

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Thanks for the comments, compu-smart, Ralph and In The Doghouse. The level of service goes up and down over the years because it's always controlled by the commissioner in charge. I kept the DMV booklet for several years, but finally discarded it when I move to Long Island two years ago, so I know longer have it as a reference.

    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 10 years ago from California

      Hi William,

      It does take quite a bit of "bad" driving to get your license suspended. How did a DUA score in the points? BTW, the DMV's in California are not quite the pleasant experience you have described. lol

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 10 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Just one of those curious little things!

    • compu-smart profile image

      Compu-Smart 10 years ago from London UK

      Crazy crazy crazy!! It's good that we have people like you William who is exposing these crazy rules which is still just as bad and god knows what things will be like in another 20 years!!