Barry Saunders

Eliminating this driver test is a good sign – Saunders

The DMV is dropping a required road sign test for drivers renewing their licenses, but drivers applying for their first licenses will still have to take the test.
The DMV is dropping a required road sign test for drivers renewing their licenses, but drivers applying for their first licenses will still have to take the test.

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind

Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

Chill, homes. You won’t have to read the sign – at least not when renewing your license in North Carolina. Gov. Pat McCrory, in fulfilling his campaign pledge to provide exemplary customer service to state residents, persuaded the General Assembly to decree that motorists renewing their licenses no longer have to sidle up to the viewfinder doohickey at their local DMV office and identify those colorful signs floating around inside them.

Donna Caira of Morrisville doesn’t – OK, didn’t – think that’s a good idea. She called me the day that news appeared in the paper last week to lament that the story wasn’t on the front page and that the abolition of the road sign test would make our streets and roads less safe. After further consideration, she said when I called her the next day, she felt it wasn’t that big of a deal.

Why not?

“People are so oblivious to signs anyway,” she said.

When I called N.C. DOT spokeswoman Marge Howell, she sought to reassure North Carolina motorists that the streets won’t be less safe because of the new rule. “One of the things the DMV has been trying to do under the governor’s directives is to increase our efficiency and improve our system of service. The road sign test was one of the things that was really having an impact on our efficiency.

It’s very apparent we did not need to give the road sign test every time someone came in to renew.

Marge Howell, N.C. DOT spokeswoman

“It’s very apparent we did not need to give the road sign test every time someone came in to renew. We issue licenses for five years for older folks and eight years for everybody else, so you’re going a long time in between being tested, anyway,” she said. “Most people, once they learn the signs, are going to remember them. They’re universal.”

People who renew their licenses online already are exempted from the test, she said.

“If we say,” she said, “that those tests take about a minute to administer, we can save up to 6,000 hours a year across the state. That time-saving, we think, can be better used helping the customers who might need a road test or additional services.”

Groovy, but where the heck was this magnanimous, time-conscious governor the last time I renewed my license?

After about 6,000 hours of waiting – sitting in a plastic chair designed by the same ergonomists who provided the torture racks for the medieval inquisition – I was summoned and strode back confidently.

Piece o’ cake, right?

While looking through the machine at the brightly colored signs, I initially thought of my favorite breakfast cereal – Lucky Charms. I saw yellow moons, orange stars, pink hearts and green clovers. Then, I panicked.

As the truckers used to say, “Negatory, Big Ben.”

While looking through the machine at the brightly colored signs, I initially thought of my favorite breakfast cereal – Lucky Charms. I saw yellow moons, orange stars, pink hearts and green clovers. Then, I panicked. Road signs I’d seen pretty near every day – and, I’m sure, obeyed – seemed foreign and confusing.

How the heck am I going to get home if I fail this test and don’t get my license renewed?

“Say, sister. Can you help a brother out?” I pleaded with my eyes to the DMV person administering the test.

She was unmoved and unsympathetic and told me to do my best. Like a flummoxed contestant on “Family Feud” with the clock ticking down, I went on to the next sign – never figuring out what the sign was that I missed, but obviously identifying enough of them to get my license renewed.

To those of you who miss the road sign test, relax. Even if – no, especially if – oblivious motorists don’t recognize and obey the roads signs meant to facilitate a smoother, safer driving experience for all, there’ll always be one road sign they recognize.

It’s the sign the driver in front of me Thursday on Glenwood Avenue flashed when I tried to change lanes and didn’t see him in my truck’s blind spot.

Now, that’s a universal sign.

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