Friday, November 27, 2015

Driving Test

The most readily apparent problem with the above report is that the examiner labored just too hard to contrive failing results.  Nobody still living is really quite that bad of a driver.  Like winners of the Darwin Award, they all died in spectacular fiery crashes during an earlier driving test.

If I submit myself to this driving test again, the evaluation of my driving will necessarily be based on more objective evidence, not just the examiner's whimsical word.  I was naive in my expectation that "public service" employees would be somewhat impartial, even though that has not been my experience in the past.  Now that I understand that the State of Utah Drivers License Division is a hostile environment, I will not entertain such illusions again.

At the conclusion of the driving test on 20 Nov 2015, the examiner treated the occasion as a parochial scolding.  She never gave me a single opportunity to defend myself.  Instead she seemed more concerned about delivering a condescending lecture.  So I'll just post my refutation here instead...

Though it is boringly tedious and tendentious to look for objective evidence that directly contradicts the results of the driving test, I find little alternative.  I am entitled to defend myself from hostile attacks.

One of the details that was marked off on the test was (SL).  This is supposed to mean "stop line".  It seems rather odd to get checked off for violation when there is not a "stop line".

Since Drivers License employees presumably pass through the 800 N and 1370 W intersection multiple times every day, while they're serving as supposedly expert objective observers of driving behavior, I would think it reasonable to presume that they would be at least observant enough to know about this.  As it happens,  this particular absent "stop line" is just outside the examiners office window, but many other roads in Orem don't have any pavement markings at stop signs.

The Handbook brilliantly asserts that in the case of stop signs with no pavement markings, the driver must "stop before entering the intersection, but close enough to see traffic".  Of course I maintain that this is exactly what I did, simply because this has been my consistent habit since I was sixteen.

A good example of pavement markings can be seen at parking lot of the local supermarket.  But they're generally never found on public roads in Orem residential neighborhoods.  That would seem to make this particular "violation" cited by the examiner rather implausible.

Even casual perusal via the services of Google Earth provides an easy means to verify.

At the corner intersection of 1370 W, next to the Drivers License offices, the examiner reports that there was a "failure to yield" violation.  In fact the Google Earth view shows how unlikely this would be for this particular intersection.  The 800 N highway is effectively wide, has designated turn lanes for ingress and egress with the traffic lanes, and clear visibility for blocks.  The examiner could have picked a more plausible location for creating a "yield violation".

There is a Handbook illustration that is intended to show proper freeway entrance, but multilane highways should work the same way.  Stopping in the middle of the procedure is not one of the recommended steps.  Note that the sequence of instructions are, "plan", "speed up", "merge", "do not stop or slow down".  This is an apt description of the traffic manuver appropriate for entering a multilane highway, and the steps followed by this driver during the test.  Of course I initiated the process with appropriate complete stop at the stop sign, before beginning the turn. Perhaps the examiner saw something different.  Just like the pavement "stop line" violation she checked off.

One other "major" violation marked off is (SI), which is supposed to indicate that I neglected to operate turn signals properly, and this supposedly reflected my wanton disregard for safety.  From a twisted perspective, this may be the only marginally legitimate check-off on the failed test.

I tried to explain that for some operations like performing a U-turn, the hand controls and steering keep me busy.  In my judgement, I deemed that it would not be safe to take my hands off the controls at that moment to activate the turn signal.  In order to comply with the strict requirement for signalling while doing other things at the same time, I would have had to sacrifice control of the vehicle for a moment.  This situation was the rare exception.  In all other instances I signalled properly.

This goes toward the insensitive and dogmatic demeanor the examiner showed toward my handicapped status, in the rare instance where it did actually make a functional difference.  Okay, you're right, maybe once or twice, I didn't activate the turn signal, but only when it seemed somewhat more important to keep both hands on the controls.

The third major violation cited by the examiner was for consistently driving more than 10 mph UNDER the posted speed limit.  This makes a fascinating study, because the Utah Driver Handbook clearly states that the NUMBER ONE CAUSE of fatal crashes in the State is "speed too fast"!  In fact nearly half of crashes tracked by the State of Utah are attributed to driving TOO FAST!   The Handbook asserts further, "In Utah, there is a Basic Speed Law which states that you may never drive faster than is reasonably safe".  This particular driving test was conducted on a morning immediately following heavy overnight rainfall.  All pavement surfaces were wet, to the point of water running off.  One of the points listed in the Handbook where reduced speed is appropriate is "poor weather conditions".    But even though the Handbook asserts that reduced speeds would have been appropriate, driving too SLOW somehow paradoxically transformed into an egregious major safety violation.

Comment from the Orem Police Department...

"...Most drivers know they need to slow down when it's snowy or icy, but many don't recognize that even when roads are just wet, speed can have a serious negative impact on their safety."

Though this quote comes directly from a State of Utah Department of Public Safety publication, it would seem that the driving test as administered by the State of Utah Drivers License Division does not recognize it either.

Even if there had been ideal weather conditions, the Handbook does not specify any rule against traveling at reduced speed.  It doesn't seem to mention "speed too slow" as one of the primary factors that cause accidents.

Obviously, obstructing other traffic would be an appropriate basis for invoking this supposed "violation".  The Handbook advises, "do not drive so slowly that you become a source of danger on the road".  No such incident took place at any time during the driving test.  Fabricating a supposed violation out of casual driving that involves occasionally being in the traffic lane without instantly rocketing over the speed limit at every opportunity sounds like a rather ludicrous and inconsistent application of the speed limit rules.  In any case, if she had only let me know she was in such a big hurry to get somewhere, I would have been happy to speed up!

Prior to beginning the driving test, I told the examiner that due to the absolute constraints of my physical handicap, I was unable to effectively perform parallel parking.  She dismissed my assertion with casual unconcern, informing me breezily, "It's part of the test".  As if parallel parking contains some vital principle that informs safe driving.  After my protest I acceded to her insistence.  She penalized me anyway for failing to successfully perform the parallel parking test - as expected.

Other elements of the test are routinely omitted from the testing protocol out of consideration for known handicap limitations, but for some unknown reason the parallel parking exercise is mandatory and obligatory and cannot be omitted for handicapped drivers.

I suppose there may be some voyeuristic comic entertainment potential in forcing handicapped individuals to misperform.  I can only say that it did not appeal to my sense of humor.  In any case, I am perfectly willing to incur all the violation points that can possibly be mustered out of my failure to perform the parallel parking test, as long as all the other arbitrary restrictions, phony "requirements", and fabricated violations are withdrawn.  I would be happy to stipulate a restricted license that prohibits me from parallel parking, the Widowmaker Hill Climb, drag racing on State Street, driving to the top of Mt. Timpanogos, and any number of other things that I never attempt already.

The final point serves to emphasize - any particular principle that seems like a good idea can easily be dogmatically OVERemphasized to the extreme, beating it to death, to the point that it detracts from the very object it was intended to promote.  I hesitate to suggest that this phenomenon characterizes standard operating procedure of many government bureaucratic organizations, but in this case it seems unavoidable.

Specifically, the examiner indicates an "hc", a "head check" violation, in nearly every available little box on the driving test form - sometimes even more than once.  In fact she proudly asserted to me prior to the driving test that she fails 90% of her driving test candidates because they do not satisfy her demand to see their little swiveling heads constantly turning.

I see nothing unreasonable about the concept of the driver keeping aware of the surrounding traffic conditions.  But the ridiculous parody of drivers constantly swiveling their heads like an owl to survey 360 degrees is simply ludicrous, and the examiner gave the impression that nothing less was acceptable.

In fact there are many obvious cases where the "head check" - as described in proper Handbook protocol - would be totally ineffective and serve no purpose other than to distract the drivers attention from important priorities.  And in fact the Handbook cites "driver distraction" as one of the top causes of accidents on Utah roads.

One glaringly obvious example where dogmatic "head checks" would serve no purpose, and with which I have had years of personal operating experience.

Another example where no amount of "head check" will afford a clear view of surrounding traffic.  That's me on the right, sitting under the shade of the overhanging tank.   I drove this  5000 gallon water tender for the IVFD in Sanpete for several fire-fighting seasons.

Another common circumstance where an exaggerated "head check" is totally pointless.  I drove a pickup with camper for many years, on a regular basis.

In many cases, using mirrors is the only way to perform an effective "check".  This has been my habit for many years.

At this point I am no longer seeking a provisional or restricted driving privilege.  The driving test shows no objective basis for any of the arbitrary restrictions that I have accepted in the past.  I want to traverse the freeway and drive on highways, day or night, with the same freedom granted to "normal" drivers.  The State of Utah will need to show cause for any restrictions.

There are other objective evidences that could be raised, but I think this should suffice to support my suspicion that it is the examiner - representing official policy of discrimination by the State of Utah Drivers License Division - that really merits a failing grade.

And just exactly what institutional response should I expect to be forthcoming, prompted by such whining?  What I expect is more effective demonstration of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

As I understand it, filing a false report in the public records of the State of Utah is a Class B misdemeanor.

We must do something about this IMMEDIATELY!...


Among the restrictions listed on the provisional temporary license issued to me, I am prohibited from travel on roads with a posted speed limit over 40 mph.  This effectively makes it against the law for me to drive to my doctor's office, which is on University Parkway in Orem, and my hospital, Timpanogos Regional Medical Center, which is located on 800 North in Orem.   Interestingly, the provisional temporary permit also makes it illegal for me to drive to the State of Utah Drivers License Division offices, which are also located on 800 North in Orem.

When similar arbitrary and prohibitive driving restrictions were first imposed by the State of Utah Drivers License Division in Sanpete County, in 2009, they effectively prohibited me from driving beyond my own driveway. My rural home at the time was located on US Highway 89, where the speed limit is 55 mph. The nearest shopping and groceries were more than 15 miles away. The nearest medical facility was further.

When I raised this objection, they grudgingly modified the restriction so that I was permitted to legally drive to local shopping areas.

At the time I mistakenly thought this capricious bullying was originating from one specific person abusing her authority. Now, after similar incidents, I can see that it represents an institutional attitude.


Thomas E S Thomas said...

Dad, Don't give up. I read the test and there's hope for you yet. Keep practicing and take the driving test again in a month. You'll get the hang of this. I believe in you.

Jim Cobabe said...

Thanks Thomas. You sustain me in my hour of need.

Harumph! ;)