Our government's system for granting the privilege of driving to citizens is a bloated and inefficient mess. It would take a team of excavators countless years to remove the puss that festers in the boil of our DMV, traffic courts and insurance regulators.
Buckle it up tight folks because this is a "Mad as Hell and not going to take it any more" column. I've had some documentary difficulties recently and it's time for a vent.
Let's start with the DMV and its monopoly on our rights. Average would-be drivers enjoy hours of thumb-twiddling action while an understaffed collection of clerks bumps into each other to handle customer loads consistently larger than they can accommodate. Don't like the wait? Too bad. It's their way or the highway, I mean, their way or no highway.
Any source of competition for these offices would render them parking lots within a year. Private DMV offices could be overseen by government-appointed officers to ensure that standards of the law are upheld. Most lawmakers would proclaim it madness to turn over the delicate task of issuing driving permits and ID cards to a private company. Well, all right then; get your own system up and running faster than molasses across arctic tundra!
Traffic courts, insurance companies and tag offices communicate through a thick fog of some sort. Maybe it's exhaust smoke. Records in one place don't match records at another and so on. Have computers compounded the problems? The record-keeping mismatch has more ways of getting crisscrossed, but dissecting the meaning of those records is often the problem.
Do insurance forms and driving records go on an interpretation vacation from Chinese to Runic to cave painting and then back to the King's English? Well they must. Cleared offenses from years gone by can tailgate you through the court system. A clerk who forgets to remind you of a fine or slips and strikes the wrong key can sentence you to some hard times. Remember the one about the monkeys and the typewriters and Shakespeare?
Next thing you know you have a legitimate problem and decide to go to court to straighten it out. Please notice that I used the word "decide." While not required to spend hours listening to DUI charges and shoplifting cases one may, if he chooses, attempt to lobby the court for a favor. The judge calls your name and flips through a hodge-podge of quasi-truths that is your driving record and declares you less than, to quote, "stellar," so there will be no lowering of any fees.
The same judge who has just finished joking with an illegal alien from Mexico about his (the alien's) reckless and drunken spin through town decides to hunker down and declare you the bad guy. God bless America. From Seinfield to Stalin in three seconds flat. At least there's no jail time following the stern reprimand and record editorializing.
Co-workers seemed a bit hesitant when I said, upon my return from court, that my column this week would include slanderous descriptions on this topic. Over the past few years of insurance laws being changed, court requests being turned down and DMV offices misinterpreting VIN numbers I need to air it out a bit.
I'm also tired of seatbelt laws and Click it or Ticket checkpoints staffed with drug sniffing dogs. Do the police need help from the dog to see if my seatbelt is fastened? That wasn't a cheap shot, the answer is no.
I mean no disrespect for the individuals who work for the government. This column simply speaks to the point of position in our legal system. They can talk at me from behind a counter or a bench and give me their interpretation, and I can sit at a keyboard and give them mine in print. Hopefully I've got it all in order, because I wouldn't want to cause them any extra trouble.
Rob Felt is the photographer for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.