Think the DMV Is Bad?


Try getting a driver's license in Germany. (Link via A Fistful of Euros).

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  1. Having been on the Autobahn, I don’t blame them. Mostly it’s no worse than Houston, but there are places where it’d have been a comforting thought to know people had more driver’s training than in the US.

    Then again, it turns out my 80 year old great-aunt has the driving reflexes of a cat. I’d have never stopped in time, and I have a blemish free driving record……

  2. Morat, I too live in Houston and wish that some of the German standards applied here. In my experience, the Germans are actually pretty good drivers and are rewarded with for their prowess with those fantastic road rockets produced in Munich and Stuttgart and some very nice motorways on which to drive them. The process described in the linked article does look like it could do with some streamlining, however. As a temporary visitor to Germany on several occasions, I’ve always been struck by their efficiency, but it sounds like living there is a whole other matter (more contact with the public service, I guess)

  3. There’s no doubt that germany has way too much government, but i’d PREFER if our dmv was more like theirs. There are too many irresponsible and poorly trained drives in the US.

    When i got my license (age 19, iirc – in sterling, va), the driving test consisted of four right turns. That was it. I had my license. Then i bumped another car on the way out of the dmv, 5min after i got it.

  4. As bad as that story sounds, the fact that they still don’t have speed limits on over half of the Autobahn more than makes up for it.

    Highway speed limits are the work of the devil.

  5. As a former resident of Indiana — one of the states that has a reciprocity agreement with Germany — it was really easy for me to get a license. I didn’t have to take any lessons, or take the written or practical tests. So in my opinion instead of whining about German law and how it inconvenienced him, I’d suggest the author urge New York lawmakers to get off their asses and do something about it.

    I must admit that this is partly because I don’t share his problem, but I also think that a blanket reciprocity agreement for U.S. citizens makes no sense in light of the fact that the licensing of drivers is controlled by the individual states. Too bad, so sad, but such are the responsibilities of government in a federalist system.

  6. a blanket reciprocity agreement for U.S. citizens makes no sense

    … “from the German perspective”, I should add.

  7. Tom, I agree. Getting a drivers license shouldn’t be as easy as showing up on the day and doing a very basic test (which was the case when I got my Texas license). My defensive driving instructor put it best, I think, when he said “a drivers license is a license to kill…”. There are so many woefully underprepared drivers out there, who know how to operate the machinery but understand little about actually driving (as in road craft etc). Some idiots should never even be allowed behind the wheel. Maybe if the overall standard of driving was better, we get speed limits on highways abolished 🙂

  8. As much as I want to sympathize with the guy, I find it hard to. First of all, they do seem to have a streamlined process that?s available for up to three years (not sure how streamlined it is, my only reference is the article). The guy waited 11 years to finally get his license, so it?s kinda hard to blame the hoops he had to jump through. Besides, I doubt the German DMV is nearly as bad as the ones in NY. When I lived there, there were only 2 on the entire island of Manhattan and it took me about 6 hours and 4 lines to get my license. Now that is hell.

    On the plus side, it really help cement my complete lack of faith in the government.

  9. Wow…of all possible outcomes, I certainly didn’t expect a German-bureaucracy, statist love-fest from this link.

  10. The best part is the fact that they have an actual sign to denote a parking lot where the lighting will be turned off. Sounds like they’re getting all the government they pay for…

  11. I think it’s because everyone here realizes — even if they don’t want to openly admit it — that having a few minor checks before giving someone control of a 3000lb vehicle capable of hitting 120mph is probably a “good idea”.

    It’s not terribly libertarian, but political ideology isn’t terribly comforting when you’re faced with the results of a high-speed accident caused by a crappy driver.

  12. I spent over 6 years as a driving instructor in the US, 3 of them working for one of the largest D.Schools in the country where the owner and manager would stay in contact with, and visit, other driver training companies and centers in other countries.

    From what I have both seen and heard, it makes no difference what regulations you put on getting a license. It is enforcement of the rules, impartially and without bribery, that makes for safe driving and safe roads.

    Skill is only gained through experience, it doesn’t matter what country you are in.

    Knowledge of the rules can be tested for, but if they are not enforced, it matters little if you know them. How many times have you seen someone tailgate, pass improperly, drive too fast or too slow, fail to keep to the right, etc?

    Courtesy, well, if you are not courteous in the rest of your life, why would you be when driving? Culture rules that more than anything else.

    I say, enforce the rule impartially, and more frequently, and also legalize ramming, and the roads will be a much more courteous place. Not to mention more empty.


  13. Um, I got my driver’s license in Texas 20-some years ago, and had to take a semester of driver’s ed to get it at 16. The semester included 40 hours of actual driving on the road, and 40 hours of hilarity in a film simulator, which was a classroom in a trailer where you sat in a car like booth and had to “drive” to a film. The teacher would let us know when we killed somebody. The driver’s exam at the DPS included a written exam, eye exam with a site chart, and a driver’s test in a local neighborhood. Then, we had to take a braking test and parallel park, which I was totally sweating, but passed. A lot of kids did not pass on the first try – I know my sister didn’t when she ran the curb on the parallel test. It wasn’t rocket science, but not the four right turn baby test that others have described.

  14. Since cars are potentially dangerous and operated in public, it seems as though there is a legitimate 3rd party effect that justifies some government meddling.

    Judging from the driving I see every day, there is a real problem with driver skill in the US. A great deal of that can be traced to incomeptant instruction, though, so madating more training may not help.

  15. I think the proper libertarian solution is to have your auto insurance company test you and certify you as a “safe driver.” Then the owner of the roadway requires you to have a sticker or something signifying such, issued by the one of the insurance companies the road owner recognizes as reputable.

    If you turn out not to be a safe driver, the insurance company pays for the damage you cause, then either jacks up your rates to cover what is now known to be a higher level of risk, or revokes its certification.


    Then again, it turns out my 80 year old great-aunt has the driving reflexes of a cat.

    It took a minute for this to sink in. Cats are notoriously bad drivers!

    (Remember “Toonces the driving cat” from Saturday Night Live?)

  16. Back when I lived in Ohio, Colorado, and Arizona I would hear about people shooting at each other on California highways and thought what a crazy bunch those Californians are. Now that I live in California I am very sympathetic to those shooters. This is the only place I have ever driven where people putter down an entrance ramp to the highway and immediately merge all the way over to the left lane, no matter how quickly (or, more often, slowly) traffic is moving. There they stay until their exit comes up and they zip back to the right lane. It’s really amazing. Even at 2am when there’s no traffic on the freeway at all they get way over in the left lane and just stay there. Stand on an overpass sometime and watch the traffic when it’s not rush hour and you’ll find about as many cars in the left lane as in the other two or three lanes combined. Usually these lemmings at least follow the flow of traffic, but about 1 car in 10 in the left lane is doing the speed limit, or just under, and has no intention of EVER getting out of anyone’s way. I’m convinced California could save a fortune on highway expansion if the cops (who are WAY better here than the ones in Colorado, I might add) would just pull these idiots over and relieve them of the burden of their drivers’ licenses. I’ll bet the carrying capacity of the highway could be increased by 25% if people would just use the passing lane for, well, passing.

    Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because it’s local phenomenon. Every city has their share of clowns in the left lane holding everyone else up, but in California it’s a way of life. Is it poor driver’s ed? Is it some sort of bizarro So Cal cultural thing? Hey, I love my car too, but I don’t want to sit in it for three hours when two will do just as well. Even if the state wanted to do something about it, could they? When a problem is this widespread, it seems that no escalation of enforcement is going to put even a minor dent in it. I guess the question I’m asking is, does state-mandated driver training make any difference at all? Or is the problem that the training the state mandates just sucks?

  17. > it took me about 6 hours and 4 lines to get my license. Now that is hell.

    Yes, that’s SO much worse than paying $1200, going to class three hours a day for a week, and driving aimlessly for 40 hours.

  18. Threat, my SoCal SO and I despair over this all the time, and talk wistfully of PSAs, enforcement, how we’ll get “Slow Traffic Keep Right” as epitaphs…. At least it gives us something to talk about on long car trips. You might be heartened to hear, though, that pickup-driving SO does have about a 65% success rate of getting drivers to move over by employing the aggressive Autobahn tactics (flashing headlights, light tailgating). Sometimes it takes a couple of minutes.

    But anyway: yes, that is precisely why I dread freeway driving and take surface streets whenever possible, despite the stops, the lower speeds and the higher accident rates. Of course, this also has the effect of keeping me closer to home.

    “Do bullets have an expiration date?”

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