Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

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Driving laws too complicated for DMV

Jerry Stratton, January 11, 2006

We’ve known for a long time that our tax laws are so complicated that even the IRS can’t reliably advise you about them. That’s not the only place where we can’t know if we’re following the law. Its become a truism that motor vehicle laws are so complicated that nobody can follow them: that any police officer worth their training can cite anybody in order to justify a stop after the event.

Now it turns out that we can’t even trust the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The Republican governor’s lack of a motorcycle endorsement--or an M-1 or M-2 designation--on his license came to light on Monday, a day after the motorcycle he was operating with a sidecar collided with a neighbor’s car. On Tuesday, Los Angeles police and state officials were at odds about whether Schwarzenegger illegally operated that motorcycle.

California Highway Patrol spokesman Tom Marshall and Department of Motor Vehicles spokesman Mike Miller said the law is different for motorcycles with sidecars attached. They said the Class C license Schwarzenegger holds is enough to legally drive that type of motorcycle, and the DMV motorcycle handbook backs them up.

But a spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department, which investigated the accident, said the governor needed a motorcycle endorsement to legally operate the motorcycle - even if it did have a sidecar attached.

Lt. Paul Vernon cited the vehicle code, which includes a motorcycle with a sidecar under the definition of what is a motorcycle.

When the law becomes so complicated that even those charged with enforcement--in this case, the DMV and the Highway Patrol--can’t get it right, how can the rest of us be expected to comply with it? The law becomes little more than a tool used to harass whoever an agent of the state charged with enforcing it wants to harass.

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