Read the DMV book


One night, I was heading back to the station to do paperwork when I saw a car make a left turn from a side street as it drove between delineators and across a painted median.

As he turned, I was taken back to a cold and rainy morning in 1999 when I handled my very first fatal collision. It was at this same intersection where an 85 years old man made a left turn from a stop sign and was broadsided.

On the day of the fatal there were no delineators or painted medians. The design of the street changed sometime after that crash and I hadn’t been there for a call since.

I stopped the car and asked the driver for his license. He replied, “I don’t have it with me.”

“You forgot it or you don’t have a license?” I asked.

“I don’t have it with me.”

“You don’t have one, right?”


During the stop we talked about the violation and who owned the car. He said he was the owner and he didn’t have insurance either. I asked, “Have you even taken the license test yet?”

The driver replied, “No, but the DMV book is in my glovebox.”

“Have you read it yet?”

“No,” he replied. He then added with a hopeful tone, “But I’ve looked through the pages.”

All I could do was shake my head and call for a tow truck. After he signed his ticket, the driver grabbed some belongings. When he was done I asked, “Did you get the DMV book?”

He nodded his head, reached into a bag and held it up like a winning lottery ticket. At least he remembered to take it. Maybe he’ll read it one day.

“I have a clean record”


“234, we just got rear ended,” said an officer on the radio.

He gave his location and advised there were no injuries. I grabbed the microphone and said, “729 en route.”

When I arrived, I saw both vehicles in the southbound #2 lane at the intersection. The officer told me they were stopped for a red light when they were hit from behind.

He also told me the SUV’s driver was unlicensed. I shook my head as I thought about the two times my patrol cars were hit by unlicensed drivers.

I walked up to the woman, who was still in the driver seat, and asked her to step out of the car so we could talk on the sidewalk.

“You want me to drive over there?” She asked.

“No, you don’t have a license. Come out and we’ll talk on the sidewalk.”

“I can drive over there,” she said as she pointed to the right.

I was pretty sure she’d already done enough driving for tonight. After she exited the car we walked to the sidewalk. Once we were safe on the sidewalk the woman said, “I have a clean record.”

Well, that made me feel better…..

During the interview I learned she applied for a driver’s license and failed the written test. When I heard that, I almost pointed to the cars and said, “You failed the driving test too,” but I held my tongue.

When the interview was over, I gave the driver a card with the report number on it and said her car was getting impounded. She responded by asking if she could keep the car.

Keep the car? Really?

Let me get this straight. She was unlicensed, failed her test, crashed into a police car and now she wanted to keep the car???

Hum, let me think about it…… No.

The driver who got a history lesson on my car stop

You just gotta have fun……

One night we were dispatched to a traffic collision in an alley with no details. The caller reported possibly hearing a crash after car was skidding up and down the alley.

We drove the alleys of the neighborhood, but couldn’t find any damage. We then saw a car that matched the description and stopped it.

It turned out to be the correct car except there was no collision damage. The driver confirmed everything the caller had described, which included the skidding and fast driving through the alleys. To top it off, he was unlicensed.

I thought we were going to impound his vehicle since he was unlicensed, but my partner, who was training as a new traffic officer, said the driver could keep his car. My mouth fell open when I heard that.

I said, “Hold on. You have to answer a question correctly or we’re going to impound your car.”

He pointed to the other officer and said, “He told me I could keep the car.”

“I know, but I’m in charge here,”

He looked back and forth at us, as I tried to keep a straight face.

“How many continents are there in the world?” I asked.

The confused look on his face was priceless. It was as if his head was about to explode.

“Um, Thirty four?”

“No, seven,” I said as I corrected him like a TV game show host with a buzzer in the background.

His head involuntarily bounced back as he rolled his eyes and threw his arms up in the air like he had just dropped the game winning touchdown pass.

“Ok, let’s try another question. Name the president who was assassinated in 1865.”

He couldn’t even answer it. I probably started with questions that were too hard. He was clearly not the Trivial Pursuit champion.

“It was Abraham Lincoln,” I said.

“Lincoln wasn’t president when he was shot.”

“Yes he was,” I said.

“No, he wasn’t.”

I had to take a commercial break to help educate this guy on where, when and who shot Abraham Lincoln.

After I was done I asked, “Did you finish high school?”


“Okay. What was Abraham Lincoln’s mother’s name?”

“I don’t know,” he said with a frustrated look.

“It was Mrs. Lincoln,” I replied with a smile.

Again the arms went up and the head went back in frustration.

That’s when I broke out the “rock, paper, scissors” game and said he could keep his car if he won.


He looked back and forth at us like he couldn’t believe this was happening. I put my hands in the starting position and said, “On three.” He reluctantly put his hands up to play.

Just as we started to hit our palms, I stopped and said, “Let’s make this interesting. If I win, you go to jail too.”

His eyes almost flew out of his head when he heard that. I was trying my hardest not to laugh at this point.

Now it was time to play. He bent his knees and raised his hands to the ready position. He tapped his feet as he crouched down like a tennis player at The French Open waiting for the serve to come his way.

The tension mounted as we started counting “1, 2, 3,” at the same time our fists hit our open palms.

We both had “rock” the first time.

Then we both had “paper” the second time. The competition was fierce.

The guy was totally into it now. He was concentrating as if every strike of his palm was his last. It was like sudden death overtime in a football playoff game. We then tied the third time as he both showed “rock” again.

I finally let him off the hook and said he could keep his car. The look of relief on his face was like the “Thrill of Victory” from the opening credits of Wide World of Sports. I could swear he was breathing hard after too.

I then asked, “What did you learn tonight?”

He said, “I learned Lincoln was killed in the movie theater.”

“No! There were no movie theaters in 1865. It was just a theater,” I said as I shook my head in disbelief.

“What else did you learn?”

“There are seven continents in the world.”

“What else?”

“Don’t drive without a f#^!ing license.”


After it was all said and done, I didn’t feel bad at all. He could’ve crashed and hurt someone.

Plus, he didn’t get a ticket, so entertaining me was the least he could do.

No one follows the rules

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Responding to collision calls that involve unlicensed drivers is pretty common for me. If the regular public actually knew how many collisions were caused by unlicensed drivers they would be shocked.

Sometimes it seems like I can’t go to a collision call without at least one of the drivers being unlicensed. Sometimes it’s both drivers.

To me it’s the most basic rule of driving. Have a license. It’s pretty easy, but there are a lot of people out there who just don’t care about our laws or the rules. It’s a common theme in police work.

There are people out there who have been cited numerous times for driving while unlicensed, but they’re still out there committing violations and crashing into people.

And when they do crash, the unlicensed driver is almost always at fault. It’s amazing how much damage and destruction they cause.

It’s one thing if you’re unlicensed and minding your own business. If I don’t know about it then there’s no reason to bother you. But it’s another thing if you’re out there crashing into people and hurting them.

Friday night was another example of the unlicensed driver causing chaos and not caring.

The driver told me he was “going a little fast,” while he was looking at his phone to change a song. He was still looking down when he swerved to the left and crashed into a car that was stopped for a red light.

He never saw the car before he hit it because he was looking down at his phone the entire time.

While I was interviewing him, he told me he has been cited twice for no license and this was his second time being involved in a collision.

Then I saw something written on his windshield that left me shaking my head like I normally do at work. I shake my head so much at irresponsibility that I’m almost like a sideways bobblehead.

The date 1-23-15 was written on the windshield, along with 30 DAY. This was a marking from a tow company after the vehicle had been taken to the yard.

This guy had his vehicle impounded for 30 days on January 23rd, for driving while unlicensed. He hadn’t even bothered to erase the markings from his windshield.

If he can’t erase the tow company markings, what makes you think he even cares about what kind of damage or harm he does with his car? The proof was right there in the street because both cars were towed.

During the interview he told me he had been living illegally in California  and didn’t have a license. I asked him why he hadn’t gone to the DMV because they were handling out driver’s licenses to everybody since the beginning of January.

His answer should get you upset if you’re following all the rules and have car insurance.

He just hadn’t gone yet. He hadn’t even made the effort to go to the DMV, despite the fact that they’re handling out licenses to everyone like candy.

When he found out his car was being impounded again he asked if he could have a chance. I told him no way. He then asked, “Can you just have the tow truck put the car in my backyard?” NO!

This article isn’t a debate if they should get licenses or not. That’s for someone else to decide. I’m just telling a story about what happens almost nightly where I work.

In California, everyone has the ability to get a driver’s license no matter what country they’re from or what their citizenship is. That’s fine, but when a person hasn’t even made the effort to go to the DMV then it’s beyond lazy and I have no sympathy.

Unfortunately they’re out there on the roads with the rest of us. Stay safe out there.