Letters to the Editor: Californians can’t blame their bad driving on an unreadable DMV handbook

Traffic at a standstill on the northbound 101 Freeway through Hollywood.
Traffic at a standstill on the northbound 101 Freeway through Hollywood.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: For sure, the Department of Motor Vehicles handbook reads much like a German medical textbook. But so many things that make for bad drivers stem from a lack of common sense, not a linguistically turgid guide.

Here are some examples: tailgating at 70 mph, speeding in the rain, changing lanes without signaling, and rolling through stop signs.

The list is long. If I were the DMV director, I’d replace the written test with an essay on safety. At least 75% of today’s drivers would be gone from the roads.


David Smollar, San Diego


To the editor: The problem with readability of the DMV handbook comes from the interface of driving and the civil court system.

Drivers (or their attorneys) avoid responsibility because the wording in the handbooks is not inclusive enough. So, more and more clauses get added over the years. I see two possible solutions.

California can change its Constitution to say that only the simple interpretation of the DMV handbook is valid, and trying to evade responsibility for traffic violations or crashes by citing ambiguous wording is not allowed.

Or, we can simply adopt the unwritten rules of the road in some parts of the world: Don’t hit anything, and don’t get hit. Break either one, and you lose.

Keith Price, Los Angeles


To the editor: Being from Italy, where people drive crazy in the real sense of the word, I have a few observations about California motorists.

The distance between you and the car in front of you should be twice that which drivers here maintain. This gives you enough time to avoid a crash in case the car in front comes to a sudden stop. Californians don’t do this because they get very upset if another driver cuts in front of them.

In California, turn signals are optional. You don’t want to reveal your intention too early.

If you’re stopping to pick up or drop off a passenger, any location is fine.

In a parking structure, it’s always OK to wait 10 minutes for the spot that’s closer to the entrance of the mall, even if you’re clogging up the entire lot. You are special.

Michele Castagnetti, Los Angeles