Rules of the Road: Light Reading at the DMV
Department of Motor Vehicles, Norwalk, Connecticut, 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.