WASHINGTON — The District of Columbia might have the worst Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) rules in the nation.
At least, it’s easy to conclude that after reading a column by Reason’s Mike Riggs, who took a driving test at a D.C. DMV last week.
He quickly learned four things:
- Every car must have up-to-date inspection stickers.
- Every car must have an emergency hand brake between the front seats.
- All the windows must work.
- Cars cannot be used for testing if a check engine light is on.
“If your car fails any of these criteria, you can’t use it for your road test,” Riggs wrote.
A DMV employee suggested that Riggs rent a car from a nearby lot, dubbed the “parking lot guys.”
“I asked the DMV clerk to reschedule me for later in the month. The next available date? June 21,” Riggs wrote.
Not wanting to wait that long, he gave in and forked over $60 to rent a car for one hour of testing.
“D.C. has exactly one testing center for 700,000 residents, which is why there’s a multi-month gap between when you take your written test and when you can complete your driving test (and no, you cannot schedule the driving test before you’ve passed your written test). That’s absurd,” Riggs wrote.
Riggs also knocked the idea that check engine lights are a good predictor of car safety.
“That light could mean you need to replace a fuse or a sensor or a bulb, that you already replaced one of those things, or that your car is about to die,” he wrote. “But because manufacturers give us only enough information to get us into a dealership, the only way to know exactly what needs checking is to fork over several hundred bucks (or more) to a mechanic or drive around and see what happens. Enough people have done the latter for all of us to know that we are not in imminent danger when riding in a car with an illuminated ‘check engine’ light.”
Riggs concluded: “The check engine light is a farce, and so is the hand brake: my examiner spent our entire ride holding a pen and clipboard. If I didn’t have the capacity to brake at a moment’s notice, she didn’t either.”
We’re curious: What is your worst DMV experience? Share it in the section below: