The RMV: How Necessary is this Evil?

by Laura Flynn
BHS News

Everyone in America, at least everyone who drives in America, has to pay the fees associated with licensing, driving, and violating. It always seems these fees are slightly misplaced. Fifty dollars to renew your license? Another fifty to register the car you have already paid thousands for? Tack on another twenty nine to get it inspected every year? Moreover, these prices are set to rise at least ten percent. As if driving was not already expensive enough, with gas and insurance.

Not only are the fees oppressive, but what of the RMV process alone? One would think with all that money the institution is getting off the 4,645,705 licensed Massachusetts drivers they could hire a few more people or make it more efficient. Wait times can hike over an hour and everything, from the customer’s side, is done on paper. Licensed citizens are paying for this service and regulation, but the RMV does nothing to make a trip to the establishment any easier or quicker, especially when we have bountiful modern technology to make that possible.

I, myself, had to deal with the borderline tortuous and infuriating RMV process over the last four months. My license was suspended for three months for my first speeding offense. My first. I was two hours from home on a Sunday afternoon. I was seventeen years old, only three months short of my eighteenth birthday. And this is the distinction that landed me in all my trouble.

I do admit that I was speeding, exactly nineteen miles per hour over the 65 miles per hour speed limit on the Massachusetts Turnpike in Chicopee. I do realize it is and was illegal, but I did not realize the massive penalties a driver under eighteen must face if charged.

I paid my $190 ticket, thinking that would be the end of it. About a month later I received a letter stating that my license was to be suspended at the end of the week, because I had admitted to speeding as a result of paying my ticket. It would be suspended for three months. That seemed plausible, almost, as I was a high school student with parents to drive me and a bus to take me to school. But, as I read on, the letter got more daunting and ridiculous. I was to attend two driving courses, each costing me $75, both to aid me in my “reckless driving” and “road rage”, I was then to pay a $500 fee to even begin the process of getting my license back at the end of it all. I would then have to retake the written permit exam and a road test and pay for both. The sum total of the $190 ticket I had already paid, the two $75 classes, the $500 reinstatement fee, the $30 permit test, the $20 road test, and the $50 license renewal fee would amount to, at the very least, $890. And if I had gotten the ticket roughly three months later, at eighteen years of age, the only fee would be the $190 ticket, and that would be the end of it.

Once my suspension was over, and I had attended both of my mandated classes, I discovered I would have to go to the Boston RMV, rather than the Braintree branch, to see a hearing officer to approve my reinstatement. I went to the hearing office on the top floor and waited a total of two and a half hours. Once my number, not name, was called I expected I would be brought into an office to speak to an officer like all of the other people waiting. Rather a woman at the front desk, who I am not even sure of her title, stamped a piece of paper and circled the $500 fee and told me to go back downstairs to wait again to take my permit test. I waited two and a half hours to get a piece of paper stamped and a number circled. I spent half a day, dragging my mother- my only form of transportation, thanks to the RMV- down with me just so a woman could turn her nose up at me, stamp a paper, and circle a number.

When I made it downstairs a jolly girl at that front desk gave me another numbered identity and told me to wait another hour to get my permit, and pay my $530.

I currently am relicensed and driving with acute care. But the entire experience infuriated me and continues to perplex me. The law I was charged under is a JOL (Junior Operator’s License) set exclusively for drivers under eighteen. If I had been eighteen, I would have gotten off with practically just a slap on the wrist. The RMV had so drastically charged a teenager, someone who can barely be expected to have enough money to pay all those heavy fines, especially with a license suspension restricting their ability to get to work to make that money. The oppression seems unnecessary and misplaced, especially for a first-time offender two hours from home on a practically empty stretch of highway.

In an effort to understand I have searched the internet to see where all this money goes. It is almost impossible to find, aside from funding for highway construction and up-keep. Even that seems ridiculous, as if they are creating these regulations to create revenue, and not actually to keep a safe populace or “teach the youth a lesson on safe driving”. It would seem logical and necessary that this money should instead go to improving the RMVs practices, as two and a half hours of waiting to get a paper stamped and circled seems highly inefficient and degrading. America, or at least Massachusetts, should rethink these intense and frequent fines or at least provide clearer understanding for the public as to how these fines are transferred into beneficial government spending.

Laura Flynn is a student in Advanced Placement English Language and Composition