Wednesday, May 25, 2011


On a beautiful spring afternoon I was in the local DMV office waiting to re-register my car. I was sitting on a hard green plastic chair clutching my papers: the insurance card [FS-20], the Connecticut Title Certificate [MVCWA-348], the New York State registration application form [MV-82], the current Connecticut Registration Certificate [F1307A], the New York State Sales Tax Exemption form [DTF-803], my paid Out of State Sales Tax form [DTF-804], my Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin [MCO], my driver’s license and other pieces of paper dear to bureaucratic hearts. I was waiting for my number to come up so I could see the next available attendant in this state sponsored insane asylum.
          Sitting next to me was an overweight housewife bulging out of her purple tube top and green slacks sporting pink flip flops, accompanied by her daughter, likewise color challenged. The girl was clutching a pair of sneakers while wearing another variation of her mother’s flip flops. I overheard their conversation.
          The gist of it was that the daughter had not prepared or practiced for the test. The mother assured her daughter that the test what a “no brainer”, that she really didn’t have to practice, that anybody, I mean anybody can pass the test. By the way, wear sneakers when taking the test. The cavalier attitude to this rite of passage startled me. 
          Their appointed time came and off they went to the parking lot to take the driver’s test. I watched through the window. Some twenty or so teenagers of all shapes and sizes were standing by these huge SUV’s, pick ups and just plain cars, ready to pass the test and hit the road.
As I drove home I passed the campus of the local high school. Dusk was falling but the kids were still out there practicing. The soccer moms were all sitting in their SUV’s or sitting in the bleachers. On the field the kids were practicing, and practicing, and practicing.
          Parents encourage their kids to spend hundred of hours practicing passes for that fleeting minute of football fame and the love a of a pretty cheerleader. Life goes on and they graduate from high school and all those hours are out the window, wasted.
Now back to that driver’s test. New York State requires you to take but a five hour course before taking the driving test. Connecticut mandates an eight hour course. For teenagers, the requirements are greater but not at all commensurate to the task.
We are lulled into a false sense of security. Cars are safer they tell us. You even have air bags in your doors. Your rear view mirror is now a TV. Traffic fatalities are down.
But the facts are horrifying. In 2009 there were 32,788 deaths on our roads as a result of motor vehicle accidents. Compare that figure to the 4,454 deaths in Iraq since March, 2003, an 8 year long war, with people shooting at you and trying to blow you up. There were 5,587,000 reported traffic accidents that year. Statistically 1 out of 50 Americans was involved in a reported motor vehicle accident that year.
So we send out our youngsters unschooled, unprepared and unpracticed to wreak havoc out on the open road. What a deadly rite of passage for these kids, including the girl with the flip flops.  


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