Talk about the DMV : LUSENET : like sands : One Thread

What scary people have you met at the Department of Motor Vehicles? Have you ever failed a driver's test or seen anyone else have a bad reaction to failing one? And is it hard to get a driver's license where you live?

-- Anonymous, September 12, 2000


My experience switching my MA liscense to a CA one was a bit hairier than Jenny's. Upon passing my written test I was instructed to get into another line. Luckily it was a short line. Unluckily the only person in front of me was an irate man, flanked by two CHiP's ready to take him down. The man was demanding his money back, and the desk attendant was patiently trying to explain why he couldn't give the man a refund for his handicapped liscense. The man had somehow seen fit to empty his pockets onto the counter while he banged his fists in protest - he was flashing a roll of singles and a pack of newports. This guy was having none of it - he REALLY wanted his money back and made the mistake of threatening the desk attendant. At that point the state troopers (or whatever they were) took the man down. Right in fornt of me! It was great. I finished my business and walked away thinking, "I live in Hollywood now".

-- Anonymous, September 13, 2000

I've never had to deal with the DMV/license-switching thing. When I was in Europe, I didn't have a car, and when I lived in CT I had no car but did have my LA license. The whole license-changing thing seemed like a problem, and so when I lived in AL I just kept my LA license. The town had lots of military, so they were used to people with out-of-state licenses. In 3 years it was never a problem.

I'm actually unlikely to risk ever changing my license if I have to take a test. Reason: I cannot parallel park. Not-- I do it badly, but rather I *cannot* do it. I've driven since fifteen, but I've never (not once) parallel-parked. It looked scary and dangerous at fifteen (what if I banged up my parents' car?), so I never bothered to learn. The LA DMV has never asked me to do it. But if I move somewhere else once I pass the Bar, I may be screwed. And I'm too old and paranoid to learn how at this point...

-- Anonymous, September 13, 2000

I've never had a DMV nightmare, but I was surprised to read that you have to have your ID mailed to you. Here in Chicago, we can walk in, take the test, and walk out with a license. Of course, that means standing in line for close to *8* hours or more! So maybe SF has a better system. :) Btw, since you're reading Tolkien, you might be interested in the the trailer for the movie(s) coming out...

-- Anonymous, September 13, 2000

Here in Texas we have nothing the California nightmare system. Car registration is handled by the county, and drivers licenses by the Department of Public Safety (the highway patrol). I've never had to wait more than 15 minutes for anything, and the clerks have always been helpful. Here in Texas they are coming out with a bunch of kewl "theme" license plates, and the new standard one is pretty neat, but I don't know if they'll trade my old plain one for a new one. Instead may buy this one:

I don't like the fact that they fingerprint you when you renew your license. How long until they apply the tatoo barcode?

I've also owned cars in Japan and England.

The Japanese systems is the most hellish in the world, by far. Every year your car has pass a literal white glove inspection, and you have to collect (and pay for) chops at three or four offices located all over the place.

The English system wasn't bad at all, I was kind of surprised about that. IIRC in England you can do almost everything through the mail or at the post office. The goverment doesn't issue license plates, your just have them made at an auto parts store.

-- Anonymous, September 13, 2000

Sorry, I forgot I was on a greenspun forum, and didn't proofread that last post very well at all.

Lohr, Texas no longer requires you parallel park if you need to take a driving test. In fact, if you take a driving course the state doesn't give you a driving test at all, even for new drivers.

When I was kid (back when the glaciers were receeding from South Dakota) having to ride with the scary Highway Patrol officer to get your DL was a major right of passage.

-- Anonymous, September 13, 2000

Back in the early 80's when I got my license in Oregon, you took your "written" test on a big clunky machine. The questions would project on a screen in front of you (including a picture relating to the question for those who couldn't read very well) and you would hit one of four buttons to select your answer.

That's how it was supposed to work anyway. My machine was broken and showed the same question over and over, so I scored 100%. I guess I should have said something.

-- Anonymous, September 13, 2000

Forrest, I think it's pretty standard for states to mail you your license--that's what happened when I got my Mass. license renewed. It makes a lot more sense than forcing you to wait around for 8 hours!

And Lohr, I think that when you get a license for a new state, you usually don't have to take a road test if you have a valid out-of-state license. This is the case in California, anyway.

And Jim, I wouldn't call the California system "a nightmare." It took me less than an hour to fill out my application, take my eye test, have my photo taken, get thumbprinted and take the written test. Although, I do miss the convenient mini-DMVs they had in many malls in Massachusetts.

-- Anonymous, September 13, 2000

And Jared: don't call me "Jenny." Thanks.

-- Anonymous, September 13, 2000

I have a weird driver's licence history, especially considering that I've driven maybe half a dozen times at most, and have never owned a car. (I just like having a licence in case I *have* to drive, and getting a state ID is nearly as much hassle.) As a teenager, failed the driving test in Illinois (so I went up on the curb in front of the test facility, so what?...). Then failed it in California, but the test guy took pity on me--even though he had appeared to be the DMV Man From Hell--and he let me retake that same day; it's a long story. Anyway, I'm still grateful to this guy.

Changed to a Massachusetts licence in 1995, then to an Illinois licence in 1998. I am preparing to switch to a Washington licence next month. None of these require a driving test, only a written one, so it seems to be fairly standard that you don't need to retake the driving test if you have a valid license.

Illinois has you wait around to pick up your new licence. Given the choice of waiting vs. receiving it in the mail, I'd choose the former, but that's because I always carry a book.

Jennifer--I honestly don't remember the Massachusetts test being so bizarre (I'm sure I must have taken one), but I do remember being pretty appalled at having to pay $70 for the licence! And you're right, the mall places are convenient.

-- Anonymous, September 13, 2000

Wait a minute--Forrest, you had to wait *eight hours* to get an Illinois licence?! I'm pretty sure I got mine handled on my lunch hour! Wait, that was my address change; maybe that was the difference. But still, I don't think I waited anywhere close to that time when I got the Illinois licence in the first place.

-- Anonymous, September 13, 2000

It costs $70 to get a Mass. license? I don't remember paying that much...sheesh. It's only $12 in CA.

Oh, and when I took my road test, I realized in the middle of it that I was speeding, but the inspector guy didn't seem to notice and I passed anyway.

-- Anonymous, September 13, 2000

A little addendum to Jim Howard's post: in Britain, when you buy a new car the dealer makes the plates. A little advertisment for the dealer appears at the bottom of the plate.

As for driving tests, a written test (the British term is theory) was introduced a few years ago. It consists of 35 multiple choice questions, and is now administered by computer. To pass, you must get 30 out of 35 correct. You cannot book a practical test until you have passed the theory test. Until recently, British driving licences did not carry photographs. (They have done for years in Northern Ireland, though, because of the "security" situation.)

Jim, you were stationed in England while you were in the US Air Force, right? My father's office in London is near the US Navy in Europe headquarters, and there are always American cars with British registration plates parked outside.

-- Anonymous, September 13, 2000

Lohr, most states will recognize licenses from most other states (I don't know of any situations where they are not accepted but there may be some???), all you have to do is pass a written test and a vision test.

I tried to be a good citizen when I moved to Rhode Island and attempted to register my car and get an R.I. license the very first day but I was turned away because I could not prove that I lived in Rhode Island! I had no utility bills, no rent receipts, had not yet bought my house, had not yet received a paycheck... my R.I. bank accounts I had just opened did not count... I was told that a welfare card would have been accepted. What really frosted me was that a few months later there was a big news story about a very serious accident involving an R.I. resident who apparently also had Mass. and Conn. licenses and who had an incredible list of previous violations and accidents, no insurance, etc., etc. and yet was still driving legally.

So I drove my New York registered car with my New York license for almost a year, until my New York inspection had expired and my registration was about to expire. The driver's license was easy, but registering the car was a bureaucratic nightmare. But, eventually I did get it registered. And then a few months after getting my new R.I. plates I read a story in the paper about the new "wave" design plates (instead of a plain white background they had a wave design because R.I. is called "The Ocean State")... the state was supposed to have sent people new plates but thousands of people had not received new plates. My plates were the plain white old style and we had not received new plates (which we should have received) nor any mailing at all about it. It seems that there had been a deadline that had passed and the state had decided to extend the deadline a few weeks but was threatening a minimum fifty dollar fine for anyone using the old license plates....

So I went in to get new wave plates. After waiting for a couple hours I finally got to see a clerk... Did I want to keep the same license plate number? I dunno, what are the options? Keeping the same number means special order, receive it by mail in three to four weeks; accepting a different number means getting one today The fifty dollar fine deadline is next week, I think I'll accept a different number. Oops, a problem. This car was actually registered in my wife's name. I have all the paperwork, signed by her, just as if she had mailed it it, except I have hand carried it instead of mailing it because of this deadline. To change the license plate number requires that the owner appear in person or has her signature notarized. Just get her signature notarized and come back. This is Friday. The fine takes effect on Sunday. My wife is at work a forty minute drive away, that's an hour twenty plus whatever time it takes to even find a notary and the motor vehicle office would probably be closed before I could get back. Oh, surely you could get her signature notarized more quickly *wink*wink* and just come back to this counter. (when they send you off to get more paperwork they always say to just come right back to this counter rather than standing in line again) So I took the hint, drove one mile away to a notary that I knew and she stamped Nancy's signature and I was back at the motor vehicle office in less than ten minutes and the clerk smiled and accepted the form and gave me my wave plate.

Two years ago I bought an old Honda Civic for three thousand dollars. I went to motor vehicle to register it and at that point had to pay the sales tax (seven percent) on the sale... but not on the actual sale price... Rhode Island had a chart that said that '92 Civics were worth $4750, pay the sales tax on that. But this car was a stick shift with no CD player, 125,000 miles, faded, tired, and without functioning airconditioning. $3k was a good price, I could understand an argument that the car was really worth $3300 or maybe even $3500 (if the AC worked), but only a low mileage automatic with working AC and CD player and moonroof would be worth $4750. No problem, just get a state-licensed used car dealer to sign an official appraisal of the car stating that the car had a lower value and I could file an appeal of the sales tax. Yeah, right... any dealer would be happy to do that for a car you had not bought from him and therefore would also not be in the market for another car soon.

-- Anonymous, September 13, 2000

As I recall from the Colorado written test 14 years ago, 90% of the time one of the choices was "Sound Horn To Warn Other Drivers." A hint for anyone about to take the test: It's NEVER the correct answer.

-- Anonymous, September 14, 2000

I held onto my Florida driver's license for about ten years after I moved to New York. I know that you're supposed to get a new license within 30 days of moving to the state, but I suppose I had some sort of subconscious moral objection to defining myself as New Yorker (by means of getting the license), rather than someone just living in New York.

In 1999, when I became a Certified Public Accountant, I figured it was time to drop the pretenses of being a temporary resident. I decided to change my voter's registation from Florida to New York (absentee voting for 10 years is a drag), and to get a New York State driver's license.

New York and Florida have reciprocity agreements, so getting a New York license was merely a matter of turning in my old license. There's a License Xpress -- which is a location that performs renewals only -- about 20 blocks from my apartment, so I decided to take care of getting a new license one morning on the way to work.

I wear contact lenses, and I had neglected to clean & disinfect my contact lenses after de-enzyming them the night before I went. They seemed a little uncomfortable when I first put them in, but it wasn't unbearable. However, by the time I walked the three blocks from my apartment to the subway, my eyes had glazed over with protein & eye goo. I managed to retain some clarity by flooding my eyes with eye drops, and I figured I'd go back home after getting my license.

When I got to the DMV, I was surprised to learn that, in fact, I would need to take an eye exam. By this point I was barely able to see. I felt my way over to the eye exam station, and popped a couple drops in my eye. I managed to slowly and deliberately read a few lines, and the examiner noticed I was having trouble. I explained my situation. She laughed and told me not to worry about it, signed my form, and told me to step over to get my picture taken. At the time, I was relieved that I wouldn't have to return to purgatory, but, in retrospect, I wonder if I ought to be worried that there are drivers with terrible eyesight on the roads.

The biggest surprise occurred a couple of weeks later when my license showed up in the mail. There was NO vision restriction indicated.

-- Anonymous, September 15, 2000

To you drivers in California who shake and quake at the mere thought of a drivers test, stop it! Buy the book, CALIFORNIA DRIVERS TEST MADE EASY, by a former driver examiner. Everything you need to know to pass an operators test. Published with permission from California DMV. (Since 1981) You'll find it on the Internet and in bookstores. Good luck!

The scariest people I have met at DMV are people who come to take a drivers test who don't know how to drive! I have worked as a driver examiner. I tested a woman once who drove block after block, ignoring my instructions to make a right turn here..left turn there and so on. Finally, I commanded her to STOP! Off the street of course-- she did know how to brake. After she told me she had been taught only to hold the car in the road, I drove back to the licensing office.

Another scary person at the DMV is the officer that everyone calls "that grumpy old man, or woman who fails everyone." You ever meet him or her? If you do have that misfortune, you have a right to report him/her to a supervisor. But be sure you didn't provoke his/her impolite behavior. A driver examiner's office is not cushy. Oh yeah? Uhn-hunh! They do more than grade papers, do photo shoots, and risk their lives giving road tests. They are still working even after the doors close at 5: p.m. Be nice to them and most of them will be nice to you.

-- Anonymous, March 17, 2002

I remeber when i had passed my written test in school. Me and this boy were the only ones who passed! The rest of the class didnt. I got the highest grade! I was off to the DMV for my permit. I made an appointment and the very next day was on the road for the very first time. I was so scared but the Driving instructor said i was his best first time student ever! I did do very well and i was a great student for the next month. I was ready to take my road test. Finally the big one! I took it confidently but a tad nervouse. I Stoped a little bit past the stop sign. The instructor had me turn off the car and he took out the keys and slammed them on the dash board. He made me get out of the car and sit in the passenger side. Everybody was staring at me when i got out to switch seats. Well i had to wait a month later to take it again. I was sure i would get it the secounde time but again i failed. Well to make a long story short i took the road test when i was 17. Im 19 and i still haven't gotten my lisence. I took the road test 12 times and its about to be my 13th next month. Ive moved since i last taken my Road Test. Im in florida now and things here are more easier. Lets hope the coarse is too.

-- Anonymous, May 26, 2002

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