Wednesday, April 18, 2007

But who's keeping points

Meet Kevin O’Brien, the Spa City resident who is ensuring New York's roads are kept safe by making sure the poor, impoverished insurance companies get the overpriced premiums that are due to them.

See, O’Brien, a director of Motor Carrier and Driver Safety Services at the state Department of Motor Vehicle in Albany, is helping to institute a national register of license points so that drivers in are held accountable in their home state for points they accrue in another. In his view, drivers committing violations in one state should be held every bit accountable for them in another state, thereby making traffic violations somewhat akin to misdemeanor and felony record, which freely cross borders.

What does this all mean? Well, prior to O’Brien’s meddling, a New York driver for instance, could get a speeding ticket in Alabama, pay the fine but escape having the points for the violation lodged in his or her permanent record. This driver, mind you, would still be every bit responsible for any applicable fines and would face a New York suspension for any failure to pay them. In truth, the only difference between committing violations –mind you not criminal offenses such as DWIs –out-of-state was that the points, a measure the insurance companies use to base premiums, would not carry over. Under O’Brien’s changes, the points garnered in one state will now transfer over to any other state.

"When in Rome, do as the Romans do” he told the Times Union this week after being awarded a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration with public service awards this spring. “This creates one record that follows you wherever you go."

Yes, with Big Brother keeping an eye on everything from credit card purchases to the library books they barrow, people these days need one more stinking record to follow them across this vast continent. Of course, the insurance companies love this new initiative. This means they can finally cash in on all the bullshit tickets given out in the backwoods areas of America; in the far off distant places where it’s impossible to fight the charge in any other way other than by mailing in a certified check or money order with a plea of guilty.

Another problem is that every state has different driving laws, meaning they use different point standards. If they didn’t, then perhaps there would be a federal drivers’ license much like the passport. Obviously, this is not the case. So there will need to be some way to apply the legal standards of one state to the standards of another with O’Brien’s “when in Rome” initiative, something that will undoubtedly require the creation a new layer of bureaucracy at DMV dedicated to this mission, perhaps even a whole office.

Then again, maybe this is the type of thinking America needs in this post-9-11 world: more record keeping, more governmental bureaucracy and more traffic laws. And while we’re on the subject, let’s just erase all these pesky state boundaries. After all, is there any real difference between Alabama and New York? Then again, feel free to pose this question to O’Brien himself.

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