The trauma of having to renew my California driver’s license | An Alternative View | Diana Diamond | Palo Alto Online |

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About this blog: So much is right — and wrong — about what is happening in Palo Alto. In this blog I want to discuss all that with you. I know many residents care about this town, and I want to explore our collective interests to help ...  (More)

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The trauma of having to renew my California driver’s license

Uploaded: Feb 9, 2019
THAT notice from the DMV arrived in my mailbox almost three months ago, announcing that I must renew my driver’s license by my birthday, Feb. 4th, and make an appointment for a written test. On that date, the DMV said, I needed to bring along a passport or a birth certificate, my existing driver’s license, two proofs of residency, a social security card -- all to verify I am who I know I am. I also have to pay $36 – by cash, check or debit card – but NO credit cards accepted.

Terror struck! I have taken these written tests before, and know they can be tricky and occasionally include questions on extraneous things that didn’t matter to me like how many seconds away from a motorcycle should I drive (four). Plus to pass the exam (7 out of 10 questions), the DMV advised me to read the “California Driver’s Handbook 2018.”

I happen to be an overly conscientious person (a good and a bad trait), and so I immediately went online to schedule an appointment. The first available date was four days after my birthday. Would I get a ticket for driving with an expired license? I called the Palo Alto Police Department, and was told no, as long as I could substantiate I had a scheduled DMV appointment.

Five days before my appointment, I started reading the 118-page handbook. It was a tedious read, full of boring information, e.g., how many feet I should park away from a fire hydrant (15), what does a five-sided sign mean (I’m near a school) or a truck is a slow-moving vehicle. I know the DMV likes number, so I circled hundreds in the booklet, like how far should my headlights shine, how big a car can I drive with a Class C license (a two-axle weighing 26,000 lbs. or a three-axle 6,000 pounder) and how much time might a person serve in jail or get fined if he refuses to stop alongside a highway when police officers ask him (up to a year in jail). I took more than a 100 sample questions and wondered what fines and sentencing had to do with a test of my driving knowledge. Isn’t that what a judge deals with? Maybe the DMV is trying to scare us (successfully, for me).

Then I took the “knowledge test” and some of the questions drove me berserk. I am one of these people who keeps on thinking of exceptions to a rule. For example, in my first written exam years ago, one T or F question was, “A driver should never pass a car going uphill.” Well, “yes, but…” What if there was a slow driver that had moved to the shoulder and was signaling for me to pass him? Or what if it was a two-lane uphill road? I marked the question false, and got it wrong. The DMV didn’t like my thought process, I guess. This time I encountered a similar sentence in the handbook: “Large trucks, bicyclists and small underpowered cars lose speed on long or steep hills. True, correct? The DMV thinks so. But then I thought that the question assumes the trucks and cyclists are going uphill, but what if they are going downhill? That sentence doesn’t mention that there is an up and down part to a hill, and trucks go faster downhill.

See my dilemma in taking a test like this?

Do you know what a “crossbuck” is? One of the sample test questions had that word in a question and asked whether I should drive slowly, or immediately stop or forget about the crossbuck. Well, thanks to Google, I found that a crossbuck “has two crossed white boards showing the words RAILROAD CROSSING and should be considered the same as a YIELD sign.”

I got my hair cut the day before my tests. I wanted to look good in a picture that would be on my license for the next five years. (“Vanity, thy name is…)

I took the test on a computer screen that immediately announces you have an incorrect answer (and can’t correct it). The DMV tests have gotten harder than I remember. Nevertheless, I passed!!! A happy face and sighs of relief.

This entire renewal took about two hours, even though there were no lines outside the building. Inside, the process was more time-consuming, like one employee handling more than a dozen of us in line. Yet I must compliment many of the DMV employees In Redwood City who were kind and helpful, even though hour after hour, they must hear the same complaints from test takers.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in January he is going after the DMV for a number of problems, like not accepting credit cards, and the long lines and waits, and the time it takes to renew a license. Good for him!

Yet despite all my complaints, I think the process was most worthwhile. I realized that I relearned a lot, and as a result, have become more focused on my driving performance (and, unfortunately, my husband’s – “You passed the damn test,” he tells me. “Now leave me alone as I drive.”).

I cautiously suggest that everyone should have to retake the written test every 10 years or so, to make us better drivers.

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Comments

 +   2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Feb 9, 2019 at 3:47 pm

Hint for others: Some DMV offices are less busy than others, so shop around for appointments at alternative sites. The time savings of an appointment can easily make the extra drive worthwhile. If you just show up at a DMV office, be prepared for a verrrrry long wait.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Brit, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Feb 9, 2019 at 5:23 pm

I recently renewed my UK passport online, including taking the photo on my phone. I mailed the old passport to the UK and received the new one within 2 weeks.

A similar system is used to renew driving licences. Web Link

Driving licences and passports are linked in the UK and renewal is done online with uploaded phone pictures and the system is efficient and quick.

It is about time that technology in the US was as up to date and efficient as other countries. The system here is antiquated, costly in man hours and the time it takes both in having to turn up in person and wait for the bureaucracy is so inefficient.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Feb 10, 2019 at 5:14 am

Are those identification requirements due to going for the "Real ID" version?


 +   3 people like this
Posted by homeland, a resident of Palo Alto Orchards,
on Feb 10, 2019 at 10:47 am

Real ID puts a huge crimp in the system. Too much for such an ancient (technologically speaking) system. Time to put a lot of money into it.

Tangentially, was pretty surprised that civil libertarians allowed Homeland Security get away with these steps towards a national ID card.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Feb 11, 2019 at 11:36 am

Yes, the REAL ID is adding an extra step to the process for now. You can still opt out of getting a Real ID compliant driver's license. You just won't be able to use your CDL as ID to fly after Oct 1, 2020. Web Link


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Anon, a resident of Stanford,
on Feb 12, 2019 at 11:34 am

Your story sounds like a great day at the DMV. My husband waited 8 hours at the DMV to get his Real ID. He couldn't get an appointment before his license would expire at any DMV office within 20 miles and didn't want to risk getting hit for an expired license (not all members of our society are treated equally when pulled over by police). Then, my father's story: After waiting 2.5 months for his renewal appointment, my father showed up for his scheduled time only to be turned away because the branch was closed for remodeling. No warning ahead of time, just an angry DMV worker yelling at him and other patrons to leave. The branch had been closed for several weeks and they had no estimate for reopening, yet they were still scheduling appointments there!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Feb 13, 2019 at 3:50 am

Did the Feds ever decide whether original versions of California Real IDs are valid?
I've heard that my Real ID issued last year did not meet Federal standards.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Feb 13, 2019 at 9:26 am

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde,o

>> Did the Feds ever decide whether original versions of California Real IDs are valid? I've heard that my Real ID issued last year did not meet Federal standards.

According to what they told me, which coincides with this web page: Web Link

If your license was issued after January 22nd, it should either have a golden bear with a star on the upper right, OR, it should say in the upper right, "Federal Limits Apply". If it has the golden bear with star, it is Real ID. If it has the "Federal Limits Apply", it is not Real ID.



 +  Like this comment
Posted by LifeTimeRes, a resident of Downtown North,
on Feb 13, 2019 at 11:54 am

"...I called the Palo Alto Police Department, and was told no, as long as I could substantiate I had a scheduled DMV appointment." ...and make sure you're not a POC.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde,
on Feb 14, 2019 at 1:07 am

@Anon, "California DMV issued 2.3 million Real ID cards that don't meet federal standards" -- Web Link
Sorry for the ad-laden website reference. Never sure what to believe online anymore.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Feb 14, 2019 at 1:31 pm

Musical-- interesting link. It seems that cards issued in 2018 will be honored for the next five years, but, those early adopters who only produced one identity item will have to re-prove their identity when their cards expire in 2023.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Bat, a resident of another community,
on Feb 14, 2019 at 4:47 pm

Why on earth would someone need to take a written test to renew their license? I've been renewing mine every few years for decades by mail. Is this something new, or yet another way to scam extra money from seniors, or ...?


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by resident, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Feb 15, 2019 at 11:02 am

I had the same experience. If you are over 70 years of age them you cannot do this automatically. I took the sample tests on the DMV system and often missed more than three questions - the questions are not well written and in some cases the choice of answers are fuzzy. I went to PA utilities to get the name on my utilities bill corrected so I could use that as one of the references for the identity portion of this effort. I called for an appointment but they could not give me one until May - past my birthday in April. So I went to Redwood City early in the day and it worked out okay as a separate line was for appointments vs un-appointed. Think the weather had something to do with that as people were not coming in. In all - I PASSED - YEAH.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Lucille F. Parham, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Feb 17, 2019 at 7:59 pm

Looking for forward to finding out additional from you afterward.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Lucille F. Parham, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Feb 17, 2019 at 8:00 pm

[post removed]


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