It seems that discrimination is the official policy at the WA Dept. of Licensing

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2006/11/14 01:45 -08:00, original URI:

So recently the time came to renew my driver's license. Happens for everyone, and there is only so much a person can do with extensions and such unless one is out of state for extended periods....

Anyway, I wanted to take care of it before heading out on my trip to Washington, D.C. (a few hours from when I am writing this post, in fact).

Did you know that in the state of Washington, you are required to pass the driving test every time you renew? I sure didn't, and most of the people I talked to not only didn't know this, but they didn't believe me either.

It's true, though.

"But Michael," you may be saying, "the last time I had my license renewed, I did not have to take either the written test or the driving test. Is this a new law?"

No, it's not a new law. What was helping you out here was the fact that although the testing is required, the Department of Licensing is allowed to waive the examination requirement!

Let's go to the Revised Code of Washington, specifically R.C.W. 46.20.120 (Examinations - Waiver - Renewal - Fees) -- the relevant piece highlighted below:

     (1) Waiver. The department may waive:

     (a) All or any part of the examination of any person applying for the renewal of a driver's license unless the department determines that the applicant is not qualified to hold a driver's license under this title; or

     (b) All or any part of the examination involving operating a motor vehicle if the applicant:

     (i) Surrenders a valid driver's license issued by the person's previous home state; or

     (ii) Provides for verification a valid driver's license issued by a foreign driver licensing jurisdiction with which the department has an informal agreement under R.C.W. 46.20.125; and

     (iii) Is otherwise qualified to be licensed. 

In other words, they have to do the examination every time, it is a requirement, unless they choose to waive it.

I got to see firsthand what some of the criteria are for not giving such a waiver. You'll love it....

The number machine was broken at the DOL I was at, so everyone had to stand in a single file line, and no one could sit in the large section usually reserved for people to wait around for their number to come up. While I had started to walk in with just my cane, I realized that standing for that long would not work, so I went to get my scooter.

It seems that simply having a scooter and using it when the DOL is "broken" is grounds for refusing to waive the examination.

I tried to explain that it was due to the problem in the DOL office itself, and mentioned how I had a cane when I last took the test. The woman at the DOL said that even having the cane is grounds for requiring the examination. The fact that it is a pre-existing condition is immaterial to the decision here.

In other words, I am required to take the driving portion of the examination, in all likelihood for as long as I am driving, because I have visible symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis.

Now R.C.W. 46.20.041 (Persons with physical or mental disabilities or diseases) is also relevant here. And I understand that driving is a privilege, not a right. They have the authority under law and under departmental policy and even under DOL employee whim to do whatever they want here.

But if they were doing it because I was black, or gay, or Catholic, or female, or any number of other protected classes, it would be illegal.

Somehow, even if the disease does not affect my ability to drive, my disability is apparently legal grounds for discrimination.

In case you are curious what I plan to do, I will just take the test again when I get back in town. And I am not going to sue or anything like that. Because I'd probably lose, and even if I won then the likely change in DOL procedures would be to just force more people to re-test, rather than granting more waivers. And I would become a very unpopular person in the state among people who think of that parallel parking test as one of the most stressful parts of their lives.

But dammit, it is still just WRONG. Profiling a person with a handicap so that one can discriminate against that person is WRONG.

Driving may be a privilege; but let me tell you, getting my respect is a privilege too. And every single employee of the DOL who practices, encourages, or abides by such practices has just lost it. That "L" in DOL is also my finger and thumb in the shape of an 'L" on their foreheads....


This post brought to you by L (U+004c, a.k.a. LATIN CAPITAL LETTER L)

# Christian Kaiser on Tuesday, November 14, 2006 6:19 AM:

"And I understand that driving is a privilege, not a right."

Driving is not a right. This is correct.

The rest I agree with you, but it is hard for anyone who is responsible to decide about who should make the test.

Sick? Drunk? Old? Drivers repeatedly violating the laws? Which laws?... Always there are people who will complain it's unfair, and it might be so. But what would you do better?


# Mihai on Tuesday, November 14, 2006 12:19 PM:

Move to California!

I am not sure if by law or by waver, but in 9 years (when I got my driver license) I did all the renewals by mail. Never had to step in a DMV office.

You need a clean record for this, no driving violations, no points, but is not that difficult.

# delf on Tuesday, November 14, 2006 2:03 PM:

I call bullshit.

If you were "black, or gay, or Catholic, or female, or any number of other protected classes, it would be illegal" because those conditions have no obvious impact on a person's ability to drive safely.

A readily apparent challenge in the motor skills department is directly relevant to the ability to safely drive a motor vehicle, and reasonable grounds for testing.

Not all discrimination is illegal, or a bad idea.

# denis bider on Tuesday, November 14, 2006 2:04 PM:

Being black or gay or Catholic or female in and of itself has no correlation to whether or not one's driving abilities are impaired. Showing symptoms of a disability, however, suggests that there is the possibility, and hence the need for a re-test. I trust that _you_ know your driving abilities aren't impaired, but you do show symptoms, so it's not unreasonable that you need to demonstrate this to the state, as well.

I just hope it doesn't cost you an unreasonable amount of time or money.

# Tyler on Tuesday, November 14, 2006 4:13 PM:

Washington isn't exactly the good driver capitol of the world, either.  If they actually care about making sure the quality of drivers goes up, they should make the initial (driving, not written) test harder to pass.  They could be using this discriminatory tests to flunk more drivers the first time out.

# Anonymous Coward on Tuesday, November 14, 2006 7:48 PM:

OK, I'm going to risk coming across as a major asshole here, but meh.

First, I am not disabled and know practically nothing about MS. That probably puts me on the same knowledge level about MS as most of the people who work at the DOL, but below where the people who sort out their procedures *should* be. Take from that whatever.

Second, driving requires a semi-decent nervous system and a certain level of control over your body. It requires a certain level of reflexes, coordination, and even in cars specially adapted for a given disability, some amount of strength.

Third, being black, gay, catholic or (even!) female does not affect your nervous system or bodily control enough to have ever been considered an impediment to being able to drive.

Given that, are you suggesting the DOL be required to have procedures/rules in place for every possible stage of every conceivable disease/disability/physical ailment?

How are the DOL supposed to know if the disease affects your ability to drive or not? Or if it does affect your ability to drive, how are they expected to tell how much *more* your disease has affected your ability to drive (or not) since last time you took a test? By looking at you? They're not medically trained. You want them to take your word that "you're fine to drive"? How about a doctor's note? Since when are doctors (some of whom might not even drive themselves) qualified to tell if someone is a capable driver or not? Are they qualified to say how much more your condition has affected your ability to drive since the last time you took your test?

That "even if my disability does not affect my ability to drive" is a bloody big "if". If you have a way for the DOL to actually *confirm* that - other than just have you take the test - what is it?

Discriminating against someone *where it does not affect their suitability for the task you're profiling them for* is wrong.

Discriminating against black/white actors because you're looking for a lead role in a biopic for John Lennon/Martin Luther King, Jr is *not* wrong - in that case being white/black matters. So does being male.

Discriminating against someone on the grounds of race when it comes to driving? Yup, I'd agree that's wrong. Race just doesn't matter. But on the grounds of a disease that *can* affect someone's ability to drive? Are you sure that's so ... ahem ... black and white?

But if you're just pissed off and justifiably ranting against the world, well, then I *am* an asshole and apologise most sincerely.

Now, to post or not to post....that is the question....

Hmmm.....why not post?

Because I might offend someone with a disease. Oh noes! How un-PC!

Ah, hell with it! If you don't want to be profiled against for driving, you probably don't want people not telling you when they think you're off base on other things for fear of giving offence...

# mjb on Wednesday, November 15, 2006 7:09 PM:

# Michael S. Kaplan on Wednesday, November 15, 2006 7:47 PM:

Indeed, exactly on point here!

# Michael S. Kaplan on Wednesday, November 15, 2006 11:26 PM:

If I walk in with a cane (which I did), take the test (which I did), and pass it (which I did), and they note it in my record (which they did), then I do not see why their policy would require them to re-test me for walking in with a cane again (which they said they would have done).

Unless they are saying that they choose to discriminate against those who have MS simply because they have MS, and will require me to re-test every time, due to them being assholes about it. THAT is my point.

# Mikkin on Thursday, November 16, 2006 1:44 PM:

I agree 1000% that leaving the decision up to the discretion of the clerk behind the counter is horrible.  It does not merely create the opportunity for discrimination; it is an explicit policy to practice arbitrary and capricious discrimination.  If I were the one in this position of petty authority then blonds would always have to take the full exam.  (One of my favorite sayings is "There are none so officious as those with authority over petty matters.")

Also, this is a fine example of stupid statutory language drafted by an idiot who can't string two thoughts together.  The highlighted section says that if they already determined you do not qualify for a license then they may not waive the exam.  "I am sorry Mr. Kaplan, you do not qualify and your license will not be renewed under any circumstances, therefore I must insist that you take this exam."  Legislative law clerks should be required to take a semester of Boolean logic and a year of propositional calculus.

# Igor on Saturday, November 18, 2006 1:07 AM:

I just want to know why there are no repeating tests for those who drink and drive or even better why those who get caught driving drunk do not lose their license permanently?

Whatever precautions they take not to do so, law is always punishing and discriminating wrong people.

I remember episode of South Park where Cartman hits black boy and gets busted because of a "hate crime". Then they go to prove how "hate crime" is discriminating because most crimes are hate crimes anyway. It is sad when the only reason left is in the cartoons.

# David J. Smith on Saturday, November 18, 2006 12:34 PM:

I'm just curious Michael,

How does your health insurance company handle customers with MS?

# Michael S. Kaplan on Saturday, November 18, 2006 5:51 PM:

The one that covers me through Microsoft? Awsomely -- 100% of everything with no co-pays and no denials.

I'll just say that BC/BS is incredibly generous when they are just administrators and don't have to pay the bill. :-)

# Leo Petr on Tuesday, November 21, 2006 2:51 PM:


That episode of South Park portrayed a popular but inaccurate understanding of how hate crimes work. As with all aggravating circumstances relating to motive, the burden of proof for hate crimes is high. Cartman would never be charged with a hate crime for punching a black kid -- there's insufficient evidence of motive, so it's plain physical assault.

OTOH, had he punched Kyle for being Jewish, he could be charged under most hate crime statutes (as well as for physical assault). This is because there are countless witnesses who've heard and seen him denounce the Jewish people, dress up as Hitler, verbally abuse Kyle for being Jewish, etc.

This may clear up a few things:

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referenced by

2012/06/22 HOW TO: [fearlessly] illegally discriminate against the handicapped (aka It Is The Worst Of Times...)

2007/03/15 Killing time and brain cells at the DMV

2007/01/24 Driving myself to a vacation from napalm

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