Rules of the Road

It’s that time on the roadway of life again. Driver’s license renewal. The one requiring me to go into the Department of Motor Vehicles in person. No quick clicks online or mailing in a form. Not this time. No, it’s time for a new photo (instant aging, thanks a lot), a written test to make sure I understand the rules of the road and an eye exam to make sure I can see the road.

Damn! This notice comes at a terrible time, while I’m in the middle of moving. But they do give me a few weeks, until my birthday in September, so I figure I’ll take care of it after my move.

I probably should pick up a copy of the latest California Driving Handbook, so I stop by the local DMV on a Saturday morning while out running an errand. I know they are not open on Saturdays (that would be too convenient), but I hope beyond all hope they might have handbooks outside in a rack, like newspapers. No such luck.

I go online to see if I can order one. Only in large quantities, if I’m a teacher. I try calling the information line, but am told the wait will be long. I discover I can download and print the PDF version. It’s 108 pages, which my little printer will not like.

DMVI decide to drive back up to the DMV on a weekday and see if I can snag a copy. A long, snaking line of grumbling, fumbling people coils through the lobby. I look around for something, anything that might hold the handbooks – a rack, table, sign. No such luck. Also, there is no way to move inside to ask anyone without cutting the line. A second look at their faces tells me this would not go over well. A big display up above flashes the waiting time – 20 minutes.

I decide to come home and print out the manual, a few pages at a time, which takes two to three days and several paper jams. But finally I have the rules and guidelines to review and I also have the option of taking trial tests online. The DMV recommends making an appointment and I go online to do that. The first available appointment is a week after my birthday, when my license expires! What will I do? Drive for a week with an expired license or go before it expires and stand in line? I will go and stand in line this week.

This gives me time to review the driving handbook, which consists of laws and guidelines. And this is what I’ve learned so far.

Some guidelines.

It’s a good idea to have shoulder belts and air bags because if I collide at 30 miles per hour, my vehicle stops but I keep going until I hit something and this is the equivalent of hitting the ground from the top of a three-story building.

Watch out for problem (distracted or confused) drivers and pedestrians, such as tourists, those with maps or umbrellas in front of their faces and those driving slowly for no reason.

Don’t honk at a blind pedestrian.

To avoid aggressive driving and road rage:

Don’t cut off or tailgate.

Don’t make gestures.

Don’t honk unless it’s an emergency, like a big truck is about to drive into me.

Don’t make eye contact with an angry driver.

Some rules. It’s illegal for me to:

Follow a fire truck or ambulance for looky-loo sightseeing.

Tow more than one car or anything more than 6,000 pounds.

Let anyone ride on the outside or in the trunk of my car.

Shoot firearms on a highway or at traffic signs.

Well, I’m glad to know all this. I guess. After reading of all the dangers, from fog and ice to curving roads and tailgating texters, I wonder why I get in this little machine and hurtle down the road.

My postscript: I’m officially good to go for another few years. I look older in my photo (will not elaborate) but also wiser, passed the exam with no mistakes!