When someone faxed us this letter they received, apparently from the California DMV, we thought it was a joke. It looked formal enough and the letterhead seemed legit, but there was no way – NO WAY – that the state was spending money sending out “Warning Letters” to drivers with a couple of tickets that said:
YOU MAY BELIEVE YOU ARE A GOOD DRIVER, AND YET YOUR DRIVING RECORD IS MUCH WORSE THAN THE AVERAGE CALIFORNIA DRIVER… GOOD, CARING PEOPLE WHO MAKE CARELESS DECISIONS WHILE DRIVING CAN CAUSE INJURY OR DEATH.
And, yes, it is written in ALL CAPS.
A little research confirmed that this is, in fact, the real deal and that the letter is part of the DMV’s "Enhanced Negligent Operator Treatment System” program.
Treatment? Like a weight loss clinic where dieticians do nothing more than yell at hefty folks as they walk down the street.
OK, the state wants to get on the record with drivers that they may be on the path to license suspension. Fine. Two tickets in one year doesn’t seem like proof positive that the driver better buy a bus pass, but the DMV has loads of data explaining why two tix in a year is statistically important, so we’re fine with an official warning letter going out informing the individual of possible consequences. Maybe something like:
Dear Sir or Madam, your driving record indicates that you have received the following two citations in the past 12 months. Under state law, a California driver’s license will be suspended if you get four tickets in any twelve month period … et cetera.
But this letter is just plain weird. Somewhere between Dr. Phil and a spanking. Tough love, government-style. It’s like taking junior high schoolers to the County Pen for a scared straight lesson, only through an awfully written letter… to an adult.
IN OUR EFFORT TO URGE YOU TO DRIVE SAFER. WE ARE OFFERING YOU A CHOICE…
Oh, did we speak too soon? Here comes the treatment, right?
…YOU CAN CHOOSE TO PREVENT FURTHER ACTION FROM DMV BY AVOIDING ADDITIONAL TRAFFIC CONVICTIONS AND BY NOT CAUSING ANY CRASHES.
So, what they’re saying is…get a radar gun.
Our main objection with the letter is that it offers the multiple-offender no particularly useful information or resources that might help (dare we say “treat”) the negligent driver. No suggestion that they consider traffic school or a driver safety course. Not even a link to one of the 19 videos about the Rules of the Road that the Cal DMV has placed on its YouTube webpage.
Warning drivers of possible insurance hikes and license suspension as a direct result of unsafe driving is warranted, if maybe a little pricey at a time when DMV hours are getting shorter and lines are getting longer. But this bureaucratic berating is just way off base.
We asked the DMV for a little explanation of who wrote these letters (the public information office didn’t know exactly, but says it was "developed" in the Research and Development branch), how many they send out each year (they’re not sure, but some research indicates that we’re talking tens of thousands) or how much the program costs taxpayers (well, they didn’t have an answer for that, either).
But at least we know one thing:
IF YOU WANT TO CHANGE AND BECOME A SAFER, MORE RESPONSIBLE DRIVER, YOU CAN. WE HOPE THAT YOU WILL DECIDE TO CHANGE, BUT THE CHOICE IS YOURS.
So nice to get a message of hope…