The DMV is the government agency better known amongst the masses as the doorway to the pits of purgatory. The Department of Motorized Vehicles is a state-run agency that handles the incredibly painful and time-consuming process of administering registrations and licenses for motorized vehicles. In some places it’s referred to as the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Other places might call it the Motor Vehicle Services. Either way, it’s a place to be avoided.
Sitting in the DMV is a soul-crushing process that usually ends in you failing your test, forgetting a proper piece of paperwork, or not having the correct payment method (many of them don’t allow payments via plastic). This forces you to return and experience the DMV all over again. Should you be one of the lucky few who accomplishes what they went to the DMV to do, you get to look forward to seeing the unenthusiastic faces of DMV employees all over again. We're so fortunate to renew our licenses every handful of years (eye roll).
Despite the DMVs negative stigma, everyone will have to take a trip to the DMV at some point, for one reason or another. It can be anything from a brand new driver getting his license, to registering a new boat, to getting married and changing your last name. When you do go, here are 10 myths about the DMV you shouldn’t believe, and 10 things you should know. Hopefully, it will help you survive the journey to Mordor that is the DMV.
20 If You Fail The First Time, You’ll Pass The Second Time (False)
Taking the driving test as a teenager (or adult) is an incredibly stressful event. You’ve spent weeks in driver’s ed, you logged your driving hours, you studied the handbook, and you’re waiting for #528 to pop up on the analog screen on the wall. As you wait for your turn, you study your manual. Let’s face it, you’re only studying because your phone died in hour one and the drivers' handbook is your only form of entertainment. But after all that preparation and waiting, you fail.
There’s a myth floating around that says if you fail the first time, you’re guaranteed to pass the second time. The theory behind this is that if you remember what questions you got wrong, you can just memorize the answers and retest, getting 100%. The truth is, the written tests has hundreds of questions available in the testing program. This means there are hundreds of possible outcomes to which questions will be on your test.
This also refers to the driving test. Anything can affect that too. The examiner can take you on any number of routes, the traffic could be heavier, and the weather could affect your experience. There is also the matter of confidence. Examiners want to see that you are plenty experienced, comfortable and confident on the road. So nerves could even affect your testing results.
19 The DMV Can Only Pass A Few New Drivers (False)
Some industries have certain numbers that they cannot exceed. For example, colleges can only accept a small number of applicants each year. Many people believe that the DMV functions the same way, and that only a few people are allowed to pass their test each day. The arbitrary number of how many people can join the ranks of license-holding folks who survived the frustrations of the DMV doesn't matter. Lucky for us, there is no limit to how many new drivers can pass.
There is no quota currently that says examiners can only pass so many drivers in a day, week or month.
The real priority for these DMV heroes is ensuring that the people on the road are safe drivers. If they were only allowed to pass a few drivers per day, society would function like stop and go traffic. It would take years and years to officially be legal to drive.
Further, if they just pass everyone, the roads would be a more dangerous place then they already are. According to the Association For Safe International Road Travel, 1.3 million people die each year due to road-related accidents. The DMV does play a big hand in preventing even more deaths from happening, by screening drivers with the testing process.
18 You Can Memorize The Test Route To Pass (False)
The driving test is in place by the DMV to test a person’s skill on our countries roadways. France was the first country to implement a nationwide driving test. This was way back in 1899, when cars still had wooden, spoked wheels. Coincidentally, this was also the first year of the Tour De France Automobile Race.
Back then, even the sportiest of cars were only racing at about 30 miles per hour. Any faster and those now-rickety designs would have rattled apart. Although cars, speed capabilities, and roads have changed, the purpose of the exam has not. This test is still used to ensure that those obtaining their driver's license actually understand the rules of the road.
However, the myth that you can just memorize the driving route in order to pass with flying colors is false. There is no set route at any given DMV. Your test route will change depending on a variety of factors. Some examiners might take you on the freeway, some might not. Some will have you parallel park between cones, others will use real cars in a neighborhood. Every examiner is different, and every driving test will be different. Even if you retest, the route could be either significantly or slightly changed.
17 10 and 2 Is The Best Driving Position (False)
For many decades, countless drivers have been told that 10 and 2 is the ideal position for driving. This method of using the clock hands as a visual example is used by over 95% of drivers. But recent research, and the modern day use of steering wheel airbags, have changed this position from optimal to downright dangerous.
When your hands are positioned anywhere above the 9 and 3 position, you have become an obstruction to the airbag. Your arms are now in a position to hinder the ability of the airbag to open up. This puts you at risk injuring your hands, arms, and head. When the airbag deploys, it will blow your hands backward towards your face. The injury, and outdated driving method, are not worth the risk.
Newer research conducted by AAA recommends that you should always keep your hands in a position lower than midway down the wheel. As mentioned, 9 and 3 is the new sweet spot. But any variation below 9 and 3 is a better alternative to the original 10 and 2 position. Get in the habit of keeping your hands in a lower placement. Not complying might lose you points on your driving test and could be harmful to your health.
16 It’s Your Legal Right To Drive (False)
Automobiles are an incredibly important asset to humans. They are necessary pieces of equipment in helping us get to work, school and whatever stops we need to make in between. Some people choose to drive without a license, because of the convenience a car provides. But driving without a license is illegal in every state in America.
Despite discussions of driving being a right, it is not. Driving is a privilege. And you risk being charged with more than just a traffic violation if you are caught. If you are pulled over while driving without a license, you can get nailed with a misdemeanor and possibly have your vehicle impounded. In some states, even your right to apply to obtain a license can be revoked.
The point of contention comes from a specific phrase used in many court cases and legal documents. “The right to travel” is not about your right to drive, but about your right to move freely on public roads. Further, it refers to the legality of operating a vehicle without a license on private property.
States are free to impose any traffic and road regulations that they choose. They vary from state to state. But as of now, you can not drive a car on public roads without a license.
15 You Must Be Handicapped To Get A Disabled Placard (False)
Everyone is familiar with those coveted parking spots right near the front door of businesses. These are always marked with a blue and white sign, signifying that only a select group of people can use the space. You’ve probably been tempted to utilize one of these parking spots, especially on a rainy day or if you’re “just running in real quick.” If you do, you risk receiving a hefty fine of up to $1000.
Special disabled placards or license plates are issued to persons with qualifying medical conditions. However, you do not have to be disabled to use one of these vehicle placards.
Now, hold your horses, because that doesn’t mean you can park wherever you choose or take advantage of the system. Someone who is qualified to use a disabled placard cannot loan it to others. But there is one other instance where you may use one of these if you are not disabled. Someone with limited mobility who can not drive (someone who is blind, for example) can obtain a handicap license or placard for someone else to use if they are driving that person around town. Otherwise, you are not permitted to park in a disabled parking space.
14 Car Insurance Rates For Cheaper Cars Are Lower (False)
Insurance is one of those bills that we grumble about paying because, if you're lucky, you never have to use it. Paying into insurance is a frustrating but necessary procedure. Since 1925, every state in America has had some form of liability car insurance required of drivers. New Hampshire is the only state that doesn't require insurance on your vehicle (but you must prove that you're capable of paying for damages out of pocket).
From experience, we know that car insurance rates vary. There are many factors that affect the price tag on your bill each month. Driving history, age, make and model of vehicle all cause your dollar amount to increase and decrease. A 19-year-old guy with a red 2011 Mustang will have a significantly higher car insurance rate than a 35-year-old mom of 3 who drives a Kia Rio.
Just because you have a cheaper or older car, does not mean your insurance will be lower. The more important factor is the model's history. Insurance companies determine what cars have value and what cars are high risk. For instance, a classic car is older and may have originally been bought for only $2,500. But if it's in mint condition and has some engine upgrades, it will be more expensive to insure. A Ford F150 is a mid-priced truck, but has much higher insurance rates because it is more commonly stolen.
13 It's Okay To Speed To Match The Flow Of Traffic (False)
Most Los Angeles drivers would never know that the freeway speed is actually limited to 65 miles per hour. This is because the flow of traffic generally moves somewhere in the 75 to 80 mph range. In many states, driving at a much slower speed than that which is posted, can get you a big ticket. This is because you become a hazard as you impede the flow of traffic (so move out of the fast lane, grandma).
Nevertheless, speeding to match the flow of traffic is not an excuse that most officers will accept. Although they can not pull over every driver who is speeding, they may pick out one or two to make an example of. Speeding is speeding, regardless of the reason.
This also includes passing. If you move into the fast lane to get around a slower vehicle and you exceed the posted speed limit, you can get a ticket. Yep, even if it's brief. More so, avoid reckless driving. Countless drivers will jump into the unpaved shoulder of the road during heavy traffic, just to get around the stopped vehicles. The emergency lane is meant for just that (emergencies). You're not special and everyone has somewhere to be. Driving in the emergency lane is selfish and dangerous, and can easily get you a massive ticket.
12 You Can’t Be An Organ Donor If You’re Too Young/Old (False)
When you fill out the paperwork to obtain your license, you will have to decide if you want to be an organ donor. That little red heart in the corner of your driver's license signifies that you have given legal consent for your organs to be removed if you die.
This sounds gruesome, but it’s an amazing part of modern medicine that is always in need of supply. According to the US Department of Health & Human Services, 20 people die every day waiting for a transplant. Deciding to be an organ donor is a very important decision. It really doesn't affect your life, but it can have a huge impact on someone else's ability to live. So be sure to fill out the DMV paperwork accordingly.
Anyone can be an organ donor, no matter their age. Despite people saying that you can not donate if you're too young or too old, they will take anyone with a pulse (or rather no pulse). There’s such a need for healthy usable organs, that they will accept any parts as long as they are healthy. The oldest donor in America was 93 years old. Anyone age 18 or older can donate (and even younger with parental consent). It’s vital to have younger organ donations too; even children need life-saving transplants. Often times, organ donation is the one good thing that comes out of someone's death.
11 Noon Is The Worst Time To Visit The DMV (True)
There is really never a good time to go to the DMV. They don’t offer happy hour specials, there is no grand prize for the 100th ticket called, and you can’t expect a free gift with purchase. The DMV is a government agency built around paperwork and misery. Since we will all need to go to the DMV at some point, it's helpful to know what day will get you in and out the door as quick as possible.
Like most businesses, do not go to the DMV around lunch time. Noon to 2 pm is a risky time to go because there will be less staff available to assist the seemingly endless lines of drivers waiting to be licensed.
You're better off going to the DMV first thing in the morning. If you can arrive a little earlier than their opening time, all the better. You have an improved chance of having a ticket number in the double digits, as opposed to the triple digits.
There are also specific days of the week that have lower wait times. Never go to the DMV on a Monday or Friday. Many people think going right at the top of the week will be quicker. In all actuality, these can be the busiest days. And definitely avoid the DMV on the days preceding or following a holiday weekend, as the crowds are especially large.
10 You Can Avoid Waiting At The DMV (True)
Not every DMV provides the same experience as a trip to the dentist for a root canal. Some DMVs are managed appropriately and maintain a good flow of processing incoming drivers. It varies from location to location. On average, wait times can run anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours and 30 minutes. That's a lot of wasted time.
Thank goodness for smartphones. If you have a trip planned for the DMV, be sure to bring a portable cell phone battery charger and a set of headphones. Binge watching Netflix is a great way to pass the time. If you're looking to significantly decrease the amount of time you spend in the seventh circle of Dante's inferno, look into making an appointment.
That’s right, in this modern day you can actually schedule an appointment to endure the agony of the DMV. Not every location allows this, but you can usually check the website of your local DMV to see if this is an option. Scheduling an appointment in advance is the best way to decrease your wait time from hours to mere minutes. Well, minutes might be a bit of a stretch, but if you have an appointment, they should get you out of there in under a half hour.
9 Personalized Plates Have Rules (True)
It's always fun to drive down the road and notice someone who got really creative with their custom license plate. Personalized plates are a great way to way to show some personality. Hotcars even has an article about some of the plates people got away with at the DMV (you can check that article out here.)
A personalized plate (also referred to as a vanity plate) can be applied for by anyone in any state. It costs a little extra, but you then can choose the combination of letters and numbers on your license plate. These personalized plates are actually a great source of income for licensing agencies. However, there are certain rules for these plates that apply and could potentially get your application denied.
Whether your application gets approved or not depends on your state's decency laws. In general, if something could be interpreted as offensive, it will be denied. For instance, Vermont does not allow plates that "might be offensive or confusing to the general public." While in some states you might get away with sharing your love of tofu on a plate reading "ILVTOFU," other states will probably deny it.
Specialized plates are different from vanity plates. These are ones such as hobby plates, purple heart plates, or government plates. The government still issues the numbers and letters on these, but the background options are different from your standard state plates.
8 You Can Drive Barefoot (True)
There’s nothing quite like getting home at the end of the day and kicking off your shoes. This especially applies to men who wear heavy steel-toed boots, and women who wear stilettos. That instant relief as your toes take a minute to breathe is shared by many. Some people wait until they get to their house, while others chuck their footwear the minute they step into the car.
Driving barefoot while sitting in traffic is a good way to wind down. It feels like the hard part of the day is done, and it’s time to enter relaxation mode. Shoeless driving is like a mini vacation, but is it legal?
The short answer is yes. You can operate a vehicle barefoot or in sandals, as long as you can do it safely. Driving without shoes is legal in every state in the union. Some might even argue that certain shoes could be a hindrance to your driving, such as heavy platform shoes or very stiff shoes. They cause you to feel less of a connection to the pedals and could become a detriment.
Feel free to make your car a place of respite. Get comfy, turn up the radio, and enjoy the stop and go of 5 pm travel.
7 You Can Wear A Hat In Your License Picture (True)
Some people are hat people. They love to wear them, they look good in them, and when you see them without their lid, it's like looking at a stranger. A hat can be worn for a million reasons; to complete an ensemble, to follow religious convictions, or to hide a receding hairline. To the people that wear hats, their headgear has become a part of them. It's like an extension of the body itself. Whether a cap is worn as a fashion statement or some other reason, if you wear yours to the DMV, you might encounter some trouble.
In order to drive a car, or even just to get an identification card, a crucial part of the process is getting your photo taken. This grainy, small, poorly lit photo in the corner of your ID is meant to ensure that you are the owner of said ID. Although the cameras have improved, the photos really haven't. You can be sure you will look your ugliest in your driver's license photo.
The truth is, your face cannot be obstructed by anything on or around your head. Your facial features must be visible, including from dark shadows (possibly from a fedora brim). The only exception to this is if you can convince the DMV employee that your hat is for religious purposes. So if you think you can persuade them it's a baseball yamalka, go for it.
6 There Are Laws For Driving A Hoverboard (True)
In 1989, when Back To The Future Part II was released, the idea of a hoverboard was futuristic and highly improbable. Not anymore! In 2015 the revolutionary first hoverboard was released on October 21st, the same date as the chase seen in the movie. Our modern hoverboard isn't quite like the film prop. To be honest, it's more or less an electronic skateboard. But it still qualifies as a mode of transportation popular amongst middleschoolers.
Hoverboards are expensive. They can range anywhere from $400 to over $1000. On this high tech piece of traveling equipment, you can get from point A to point B in as fast as 25 miles per hour. Because hoverboards do move at high speeds (or at least high speeds compared to pedestrians), these four wheeled travel devices come with their rules.
Hoverboards are marketed to young people, and the packaging states that they're recommended for users age 13 and older. Yet in some states, the law is 16 years of age. There are not laws regarding hoverboards in every state, but California was the first to initiate, and more states are sure to follow (Texas and Florida already did). If you like twirling a fidget spinner, and Snapchatting while riding your hoverboard to school, check your state laws so you don't get ticketed.
5 Slightly Overpaying Your Ticket Will Not Keep It Off Your Record (True)
Every single person has gone over the speed limit at least once in their life. Maybe you push the limit to avoid being late to work or maybe you just have a lead foot. Either way, everyone goes a little over the limit sometimes (or all the time). Every day, an average of 112,000 people are given tickets for speeding. Going just a few miles over the postmarked limit could get you a fine of several hundred dollars.
People often discuss ways to get out of traffic tickets. You can cry, tell the officer you have IBS, or say your wife is having a baby. Depending on the officer, you might be off the hook. One of the myths going around is that if you do get a ticket, you can overpay it to keep the points off of your driving record.
The theory behind this is that overpaying will cause the DMV to send you a refund check. If you don't cash that check, your final points will not be added to your driving record because the financial transaction has not been completed. This advice is not real, and was circulated via a post online since 1998. It's no more than a well-written scam, and will not help you avoid points added to your license.
4 You Can Not Smile In Your License Picture (True)
As already discussed, you are guaranteed to look your worst in a drivers license photo. Something about the combination of overhead fluorescent lights and the "say cheese" delivered with no fair warning, always results in exaggerated under eye bags and a surprised expression. While you can't go out of your way to look like a super model, you can at least smile to make your photo look better, right? Wrong. You Can Not Smile In Your License Picture
There are several rules to be followed when taking a license photo. You can not wear heavy costume makeup, no colored contacts and you can not smile. Although it isn't strongly enforced by every employee of the DMV, most will ask you not to smile. This goes for passport photos as well.
Facial recognition software used to identify criminals measures the dimensions of your face. If you put on a big, toothy grin, your face shape changes, affecting the results of the software. In this modern age, that photo can be very important, and even a smile can affect it. Therefore one would think a beard might not be allowed in a photo, but it is. A man can go from clean shaven to mustache to beard in a matter of weeks. For whatever reason, the DMV does not force men to shave their beard, even though it could affect facial identification.
If you really want to ensure that you look like your drivers license photo, just smile like you would when you're getting tazed.
3 You May Have To Test To Get A New License (True)
When you're 16 years old, getting your license is one of the most exciting milestones to overcome. Preparing for the test takes weeks of practice and study. Completing the tedious process and finally getting your license in the mail is a huge relief. Unfortunately, every so many years drivers will have to return to the DMV to renew their license. This can mean going through the dreadful testing procedure all over again.
In some states, license renewal is every 5 years, others are 8 years. In Arizona, if you get your driver’s license when you are 21, it’s good for 44 years (it expires when you turn 65). This kind of defeats the purpose of looking like your ID photo, but every state's laws are different. They can choose how long you get to wait before the cringeworthy return to the DMV.
If your license is within a few months of expiring, be sure to make an appointment to go in and get it renewed. Although you won't have to retake the driving portion of the test, the DMV may require you to retake the written portion. This is usually only if the expiration on your driver's license has already passed. But as a driver with 5 or more years of experience under your belt, a quick skim of the driving handbook and your understanding of road rules should be enough for a pass. If not, maybe you shouldn't be driving at all.
2 There’s No Way To Remove A DUI From Your Record (True)
Driving under the influence is a very serious criminal offense. This can include driving while intoxicated and driving while using medication (including marijuana). Every day 28 people die due to intoxicated drivers in the US. That is more than one death every hour. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, in 2016 over 1 million drivers were arrested for driving impaired. Driving under the influence is selfish and serious, and contributes to 28% of deaths related to the roads.
Driving impaired is a great way to get your license revoked, pay thousands of dollars in fines, and face possible jail time. Once you get a DUI, it is nearly impossible to get rid of. In California, a DUI will stay on your record for 10 years. There is no way to remove it from your record once it is there.
Your employment, auto insurance rates and mobility will all suffer from you getting a DUI. The long term consequences are substantial. After paying your fines and handling your legal obligations there are still many lingering ramifications. You can still lose your job, be prevented from obtaining a new job, and even be denied entrance to a four year school.
1 Driver's Licenses Have A Point System (True)
In sports, the more points you get the better. It's not uncommon to have a basketball team that wins with around 70 points in a game. When it comes to the DMV and the road, the point system is more comparable to golf. The fewer points you have, the better. Many variables affect your driving score, and the consequences of having too many points can be brutal.
Like all driving rules and regulations, the point system varies from state to state. At the dmv.org website, you can look up your specific state to see how the rules apply to you individually. Everyone starts with zero points. Points are acquired for a variety of reasons and can include anything from a speeding ticket to a car accident. DUIs will get you bonus points (maybe “bonus” isn't the right word), because of the harm involved in driving intoxicated. While most infractions garner only one point, DUIs will give you 2 points.
These points will affect your insurance. The higher your tally gets, the more you are considered an “at risk driver.” Insurance companies will up your premium due to added points. More importantly, getting too many points can cause you to lose your license. And getting your license reinstated becomes an expensive process of paying hundreds of dollars in fines and fees.
Sources: cdc.gov, dmv.org, nbcnews.com, driversed.com, wikipedia.org