Monday, October 10, 2011

Your Angry Neighbors (or anybody else) Can Cause You to Lose Your Right to Drive!


I wrote another column on this subject last March and an update a few weeks ago, but it really came home to roost personally in the last two weeks. Just when you think our state government can’t pass a dumber law, you find one that sets a new record. This is the law that allows the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle department (FHSMV) to force you to take written, driving, hearing and eye examinations based on any person who says you are an impaired driver. No evidence is required, just the say-so of any person in the USA. As if this isn’t dumb enough, the informant remains anonymous and is indemnified from any civil or criminal liability. This means that if you don’t like the way Florida Governor Rick Scott is doing his job, all you have to do is download a form from the FHSMV website (www.flhsmv.gov/ddl/faqmed.html), fill it out, and email it to Tallahassee. He will be investigated as to his driving impairment and can be required to take a written, driving, eye, and hearing exam. If you wanted to “rub it in” you could voluntarily dispense with your granted anonymity and tell the Governor that you did this just because you don’t like him and he could not prosecute you criminally or sue you in a civil court.

Somebody turned me in and I will be going through these various driving tests. I strongly suspect that I know the identity of the person who turned me in. This person bears a personal grudge against me and knows that I’m a perfectly good driver without any “impairment”, but I have no choice but to follow the dictates of the FHSMV with great inconvenience and embarrassment.  The changes I wish to make in the law are to hold accountable people who maliciously turn in others. I should be able to sue this person in a civil count for libel. And I certainly should be able to learn the identity of that person under my constitutional right to face my accuser. Dictatorships like Iran and communist countries like China, not democracies like us, encourage anonymous informants to accuse their fellow citizens without proof and punish the accused, allowing them no means of recourse or retaliation against their accuser.

If all of the above isn’t enough to anger or frighten you about this law, how about this? More than ten thousand such letters were mailed out by the FHSMV last year and more than seven thousand Florida drivers lost their licenses. Most of those who lost their right to drive were never tested. They simply chose not to show up and their licenses were automatically revoked. I’ve spoken to some of these drivers who called me as a result of this blog and my radio show. Their reasoning is that if they don’t show up and just keep driving, there is a very small chance of them ever being stopped by a policeman. Many never have been stopped because they are very good drivers. If they should be stopped, they can claim they never received the letter (It isn’t mailed certified). However, if they do take the test, there’s always a chance they may flunk something. Older drivers haven’t taken any kind of a written test in decades. It’s a little scary. Or how good is their hearing or eyesight? How good does the DHSMV expect their hearing and eyesight to be? There’s nothing in the letter to tell the recipient what criteria for hearing or eyesight is expected. What 70 year old hears and sees as well as she did 50 years ago? They reason that if they take the chance and fail, they are in far worse shape than if they simply gamble and continue to drive with no license. Why this all should anger and frighten you, is that all of these thousands of drivers with no licenses also have no insurance. What happens if one of them is involved in an accident with you?

Some of you may have seen the TV converge on my personal situation.  As I type this article, I’m awaiting a call from a major national news organization. All of the journalists that I’ve spoken to are equally aghast at this very bad Florida law. I discussed this twice on my Saturday radio show and my listeners were shocked that such a law could have been passed. By bringing this bad law out into the “cold light of day” through this blog and the media we can collectively change it.

I’m asking you and anybody you know to send an email to MyDriversLicense@ESToyota.com and state “Name and hold accountable those who would take away my right to drive” or whatever you would like to say in your own words. You can also fax this to 561 858-0746. I would especially like to hear from anybody that has received one of these letters from the DHSMV. Most importantly, please sign my petition at www.DumbLaw.org. I will forward all of your emails, faxes, and our signed petition to our Florida legislators as well as member of the Executive branch, including Rick Scott. I wonder if anybody will report him as an impaired driver…I certainly hope not. Oh, just in case you missed the website where you can download that form to report people, it’s www.flhsmv.gov/ddl/faqmed.html

15 comments:

  1. Its really a dumb law, how can FHSMV take action against a person without any proof.

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  2. Did you read the law? It's designed to keep people who are unfit to drive off the road. How is this a bad thing? If someone went through all the trouble to deal with the state's bureaucracy and report someone. That person would only have to prove that yes I am still fit to drive. Is that really that bad?
    This isn't an nosy neighbor/passive aggressive law as it has been made out to be. It's a law designed to keep our roads safe.

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  3. Hi Earl,I live less than 1 Mile to Kings Point,an over 55 community with drivers that shouldnt be allowed to walk let alone drive.I see accidents daily caused by these seniors.Why are they driving? mostly because there Adult children dont live here or know that they are a detriment to pedestrians,other vehicles and daily accidents.granted they dont want to give up there license but there are programs for seniors here a FAU to give family members driving test to see if they are fit to be behind the wheel.When your surrounded by folks in their high senior years who bring notes to the DMV from there Eye Doctor because they cant read the letters on an eye Exam thenits time.Im for it as I never knew this,i will access this Tipline now that i know it exist,not just for the driver but to protect my family.

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  4. Earl,I have a question for you.My wife and i take care of a 'Snowbirds" Condo on the Ocean here in Boca. With that I also take care of there 2009 Mercedes c Class with only 6000 miles during the Summer months while they arent here. its parked in the underground Garage assigned space.this year I did as I usually do,when I inspect the Condo I also start the Car and let it run for a few minutes.This year,coincidently,one day before they came,i took the car out to wash and wax it and had a starting problem.The battery wouldnt turn the engine and i had to jump the battery.After I washed it (had it running as I washed it) I ran it over to the Mercedes Dealer as the Battery wouldnt hold a charge.Explained the situation and they drove me home.the owners picked it up later in the day and was told "they should start it every two weeks while they are away". I was furious to hear this as it was a bad cell,I start the car every two weeks all Summer while they are away.I felt this was wrong information and never should have been said,it was a bad defective Battery.now the owners think I never started the car all Summer!

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  5. Yes, I have read the law.

    Reporting someone takes very little time. There's no bureaucracy to go through. Simply download the form from http://www.flhsmv.gov/ddl/faqmed.html, fill it out, and click "submit". The whole process doesn't take 3 minutes.

    I have no problem with a law allowing persons who think they know of an impaired driver reporting them to the state. I do have a problem with concealing that person's identity and holding that person harmless from any civil or criminal liability if their motives were not genuine and sincere.

    China, Libya, and Iran do things differently than we do in America...our constitution guarantees us the right to face our accuser.

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  6. Dear Mr. Stewart,
    Sorry, but I disagree with you on this. This law is designed to protect the public from drivers who have lost their skills to the degree where they may become dangerous to others. Case in point, my Dad.
    He came close to running over a cop at an intersection, and the policeman turned him in. Depending on what day it was, it was: 1. first he had no memory of anything he might have done to cause this, so someone was out to get him (sound familiar?) or 2. It was the cop's fault for darting around into his path. At this point it was just him and me (Mom and my brother having already passed away), so yes, I was under suspicion as the one who turned him in, but I'm an awful liar so I was cleared every time he brought it up. Which was often.The policeman had done me a huge favor, you see, because I *was* about to turn him in. They helped keep this family intact, and I suspect many more as well.We took 2 cars if we went out, as I was not about to get into his with him driving, and even though i was a school bus (professional) driver up north, I was a woman and couldn't drive as well as him.
    So he went through all the hoops to get his license back, and of course failed. he spent his last year failing driving tests (8 of them!). I applaud the local DMV for being patient and allowing him to continue his quest, btw.
    As a car dealer, I know you've had the spotlight on your brand for faulty brakes as little old people hit the gas and crash into store fronts. We both know it's not the car, it's the driver, so I would think you'd actually be in favor of this. I guess until it gets personal....
    So to your problem: It's annoyance. You can: 1. Go through the hoops, find out you're a dandy driver, and you're free to go for a few years, or 2. Go through the hoops, fail the road test. What if you do fail your driver's test? Can you be man enough to consider it was a good thing you were pulled over for this? Take a brush-up driving course to regain it? Or is it the State's fault for protecting the people from drivers like my Dad? If you hit someone, harm someone, (God forbid!) kill someone, you would be causing just a bit more than an annoyance to them, wouldn't you? Could you live with killing someone?
    I thought not.
    If this really bugs you so badly, maybe you should start campaigning for more/better mass transit. What we call transport for those who do not drive is pitiful, and while this will never be Manhattan, more is truly needed.
    You also gave me a GREAT idea to annoy Alan West . Not to worry, I'm not that low, but boy, what a great idea!
    ps: been a Toyota driver since the Toyota Tercel Wagon. Waiting impatiently for the EV. Make them hurry!

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  7. Dear Opps3,

    I agree with everything you have to say, but you don't address at all the reason I oppose this law...The informants should not be anonymous and the accused should have the right to “have their day in court” if they are wrongfully and a maliciously accused.

    Because the accuser is so totally protected and his identity concealed, this law has become a tool for revenge and abuse.

    If you want to accuse me of doing something wrong, be a man about it...stand up and be counted and accept the consequences if you're wrong.

    Would you support a law enabling persons to accuse you of a crime and remain anonymous and free from any civil or criminal liability? That’s the law in Libya, China, and Iran.

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  8. Dear "gentlemen who lives near King's Point",

    I have no problem with a law allowing people to report impaired drivers. My problem is with a law that protects those who falsely report their enemies simply to cause them embarrassment and inconvenience as happened with me. Change the law so that it doesn't keep the informants anonymous and indemnifies them against any civil or criminal liablity and I will support it.

    When you report those residents of King’s Point, will you hide behind the law that keeps you anonymous or do you have the courage to be held accountable if you make mistake?

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  9. Why not just make the name available if the person fails to retain their license. Then you can legally drive to their house and get even...or better yet report them.

    In your case, what would you do if the persons name was reported? If in "their" opinion you are unfit you are unfit.

    BTW, I look very closely at contracts with the word opinion or best of ability or judgment from all my construction contracts.

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  10. Earl,you should be turned in for you expensive oil changes.

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  11. Our oil changes are actually less expensive than the competition. We don't bait and switch customers in with low-ball prices. When you see an oil change advertised for $14.99 this is what you get and don't get:

    (1) You get a minimum wage untrained kid who was washing cars for a living last week with no training who may leave out your oil plug or over tighten so that it strips the threads in your oil pan (cost: $175).

    (2) You pay extra for the oil filter or you get a cheap after-market oil filter made in Taiwan which can clog up and cost you a new engine.


    (3) You get charged extra for installation.

    (4) You get charged extra for "shop supplies", the service department's version of the dealer fee.



    When you drive home, you're $14.95 oil change has cost you more than twice that and you don't get free tires when they wear out like I give all my Toyota customers.
    ur oil changes are actually less expensive than the competition. We don't bait and switch customers in with low-ball prices. When you see an oil change advertised for $14.99 this is what you get and don't get:

    (1) You get a minimum wage untrained kid who was washing cars for a living last week with no training who may leave out your oil plug or over tighten so that it strips the threads in your oil pan (cost: $175).
    (2) You pay extra for the oil filter or you get a cheap after-market oil filter made in Taiwan which can clog up and cost you a new engine.
    (3) You get charged extra for installation.
    (4) You get charged extra for "shop supplies", the service department's version of the dealer fee.

    When you drive home, you're $14.95 oil change has cost you more than twice that and you don't get free tires when they wear out like I give all my Toyota customers.

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  12. Dear "watches snowbirds' car while away",

    The best thing to do next time is buy a "trickle charger" at Pep Boys, Sears, or any auto store. I sell them in my parts department. They aren't expensive, ranging from $25 to $50. You plug them into 110 volt outlet and connect it to the battery. It maintains a full charge on your battery for as long as it's plugged in.

    If you don't use a trickle charger and start the car, it should be started at least once a week and it should be driven for 15 or 20 minutes. This gets the oil circulating in the engine and ensures that the alternator is revved up high enough to put a full charge on the battery. The engine won't do this when idling.

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  13. Remaining anonymous is important for adult children or spouses who have to turn in a senior citizen who refuses to give up the privilege of driving. (It's not a right, it's a privilege). Too often, an individual who has diminished sight, hearing, and cognitive skills becomes a real danger to themselves and others yet remains completely unaware (or acts as though they're unaware) and staunchly refuses to give up the keys to their car. "I've been driving for 50 + years and I'm not about to stop now".

    The refusal to acknowledge the danger inherent in their driving is completely selfish! I personally know of two separate incidents where someone was seriously injured (one of them died a few weeks later) because a senior citizen was driving long past the time that they should have been. One woman almost killed a friend of hers by pulling into the oncoming path of a full size pick up truck, who fortunately veered sharply to avoid hitting the passenger side full on. However, the passenger door was crushed and couldn't be opened. The woman's family used this as an opportunity to keep her from driving because she was suffering from Alzheimer's and had been refusing to give up her car. Sadly, they couldn't convince her to move closer to one of her children and she continued to wander around the area where she lived. One day she walked across 4 lanes of traffic (not at a traffic/ walking signal), many cars avoided hitting her and it looked like she was going to stop halfway across the road but at the last minute she stepped into the path of a car driven by a 21 yr old woman. She was so severely injured by this that she died a few weeks later, never regaining consciousness. Her adult children were devastated, and the 21 yr old driver will never be the same again. It clearly wasn't her fault and yet she has to live with this tragedy for the rest of her life.

    If an adult child, or a spouse turns the loved one in and their identity is revealed it can cause a permanent rift in the family.

    For people who are concerned about the driving skills of a loved one, you can request that the primary care physician turn in a DMV Medical Reporting form - most doctors have probably been telling that person to stop driving for awhile and the doctor is usually more than happy to be the "bad guy".

    To address your point of retribution for someone who submits a report as a means of harassment - I suspect that this doesn't happen very often although there should be some form of punishment if it's proven to be a fraudulent claim.

    Every single day there are elderly drivers who shouldn't be behind the wheel of a car - I'm not sure what the statistics are, but I'd venture to guess that we would all be surprised.

    One of the things that I'd like to see is better transportation options/public transit so that the thought of giving up your drivers license is a little easier to accept. When you can no longer drive, your world becomes a very small and lonely place.

    Perhaps you could use the format of this blog as well as your radio station to develop some alternative options for the people out there who really should stop driving.

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  14. You response is similar to many I've received in that it reveals "mixed emotions" about this issue. On the one hand, all reasonable people acknowledge that we have a big problem with incompetent drivers on our highways...many of them seniors. On the other hand, if we change the law to take away anonymity from informants and hold them accountable with no immunity from civil or criminal liability, we will reduce the number of those informing.

    This begs the Machiavellian question, does the end justify the means? Thousands of criminals are freed every year because of the Miranda Rights law and thousands more because of the Fifth Amendment. The rationale behind these two laws is that it's a lesser evil to free a small percentage of guilty people than to take away all Americans basic rights against self-incrimination. The supreme court and our Constitution decided that "the means did not justify the means".

    I do understand your point about family members needing anonymity so that they can turn in their father or mother, grandfather, or somebody else. I was concerned about my father’s driving when he was in his eighties and it would have broken his heart if I made him stop driving. If had I reported him to the FHSMV and he found out, he would have been very angry and hurt. Forunately, he never had a bad accident and never hurt himself or others. However, I believe in “tough love”. I firmly believe that if you really love someone, you will risk losing their love do what is necessary to save their lives or the lives of others. When you do this, you find out that you not only don’t lose their love, but in the long term you enhance it and you also gain greater respect from that person. If you had a child who was addicted to drugs and the only way you could force her to enter a rehabilitation program was to threaten and mean that you would take away all support if she didn’t, would you? That’s tough love and that’s real love.

    Intelligent logical people can disagree about these issues, but I take the position that there are "too many nuts" who are using this law for personal vendettas. It's the perfect tool for a Florida sociopath to get even with anybody. Psychologists estimate that 1% of the general population are sociopaths by birth and that another 10% are sociopaths by their environment. I don't like those odds.

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  15. From Ben G.:

    "The changes I wish to make in the law are to hold accountable people who maliciously turn in others."
    No argument here - just, how would you determine this without "diming out" the complainant? As stated above, anonymity allows more folk to come forward with legit concerns. The law was written specifically for this.

    In no way is/are the party(ies) immune from liability if they did report maliciously. Granted, at present, it's difficult, if not impossible to prove.

    "And I certainly should be able to learn the identity of that person under my constitutional right to face my accuser."
    If this were a criminal accusation you would. But this is an anonymous complaint regarding your driving privilege - you were not accused of any crime. The question of constitutionality in this case is irrelevant. A civil tort, however...

    I could find it easier to agree with you if there were an established pattern of malicious reporting. From your words, I assume that this is the first time. Your tone and obvious ire seem directed more at the alleged suspected party. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying "Methinks thou doth protest too much," but your reaction appears disproportionate to the situation.

    It IS NOT beyond the realm of possibilities that it's possible that someone reported you earnestly and not out of spite.

    Finally, I would like to see more data regarding the percentage of malicious vs legitimate complaints before considering altering the existing law.

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