Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Jumping Through Hoops

One annoying down side to living in different states is the whole DMV thing. Every single state we've lived in has had different rules when it came to car registrations and inspections. As if finding new schools, doctors, dentists and grocery stores were not enough, eventually I had to make the trek down to the local DMV and get things sorted out.

New York has been the hardest to get used to. Not only was it almost impossible for us to get NY license plates, don't even ask what it takes to get a driver's license changed over. I wouldn't have been surprised if they'd asked for a blood and urine sample. It was such a big deal when we finally took the Utah plates off the car and replaced them with the NY version that we all stood around and took pictures. We had lived here a year by then and finally felt like New Yorkers.

But it does not stop there. The way this crazy state is set up you have to stay on your toes. Every year each car gets an inspection. Every two years you update your registration. No notice in the mail. You just have to notice it's coming due. (I guess...since I've never gotten a notice in the mail and we've now been here almost four years) I'm not so good on the 'just noticing' thing.

Case in point - last weekend our daughter got pulled over and handed a ticket. Not for speeding. She's very careful about her speed, knowing it's what cops are looking for when it comes to teens. The ticket was not for disobeying traffic laws. Again, she is super careful about those things. She knows her driver's manual inside and out(and quizzes her brother, a new driver, every chance she gets). The ticket she got, while driving the family minivan, was for an expired registration.

Not just expired. Over a year expired.

It was due in March of 2009. Ouch. How in the world did that happen? How in the world did the three of us drive that minivan, to and from work, shopping, New Hampshire, and not once get pulled over for this? How did it happen that my daughter, the one paranoid about being a good driver, is the one who got nailed?

And the way the law works, if we plead guilty (which we are!) she gets the mark on her license. No exceptions. Even though it's not her car and her mom's the negligent party. Talk about feeling like you've failed your kid.

So I did what any neurotic mother would do. I called the town court where the ticket originated. I talked to the clerk. I pleaded my case. And she gave me a possible out.

If I get a new inspection quickly, and send it in with the ticket, sometimes the judge will give mercy and waive the ticket. Sometimes.

But hey, it's sure worth a try.

So I spent my Monday morning at Jiffy Lube, gettin' my inspection. Along with the responsible citizens who had up to date inspections and were just getting oil changes. Maybe some day I'll get around to that too.

And of course the inspection failed. We've had this annoying little check engine light on for a few months and our mechanic could not find where it was coming from so we've learned to pretend we dont see it. Turns out it's related to our emissions. So round two, here we come.

After a day at the shop today, and juggling three people's schedules with just one car now, we might have a verdict. The mechanic thinks it will be an easy fix. Then he'll do the new inspection and we'll be on our way.

I'll make the photo copies and send my pleading letter to the judge. Then we cross our fingers as he makes his decision.

And maybe, just maybe, I will learn to be more responsible. Those little colored stickers on the windshield? They actually mean something. Maybe it's time I learn how to read them.

If for no other reason, so my daughter can keep her driving record clean.


goofdad said...

You just reminded me of my trip to CA last June. My son Adam and I drove it together, alternating. When we were in Medford, OR (about 30 miles from the border) he asked me "BTW, where is your registration and insurance paperwork in this truck, just in case you're sleeping and I get pulled over?"

That's when we noticed that the registration was several months overdue. Fortunately for us, we noticed it BEFORE we crossed the border. I called my wife and got directions to the Medford DMV right then. Fortunately, OR is very lenient in this regard ... no late fees, no nothing ... you just pay the registration from the date it expired to the next due date, no matter how late you are.

Good thing he asked, too, because 20 miles across the border into CA, a CHP car pulled in behind him and followed us for about 5 miles while checking us out on his computer before giving up to go after someone else. He definately would have pulled us over if we hadn't updated our tags!

jennifer said...

Ugh. It's so painful to get ticketed for an expired registration. My husband always keeps track, whereas I pay zero attention to that little sticker on the windshield.
The patchwork of laws in this country can indeed be crazy. It's like living in the Balkans sometimes. I feel bad for your daughter - hope it all works out!

Denise said...

I am meticulously organized, and in spite of this, we actually missed an expired registration - we were driving home from CT to NY and passed through one of those inspection checkpoints they randomly set up - turns out that the car we were driving was ok, but it was then that we remembered that our OTHER car was due (and in fact, turned out to be past due).

From that moment on, when I set up my new calendar each year with birthdays, events, appointments, etc., I always make a notation at the beginning of the months that the car inspections are due - now all I have to do is remember to look at the calendar!