Every morning when I get up and go to work, I often pass by Troop C in front of the prison where people are tested for their driver licenses. There is often a big long line stretching out into the parking lot at least one hour before opening. Even with all the advances that have been made in processing driver licenses, people are still left standing in the cold.
Things have gotten more complicated since that day when I went to get my driver license in 1983 in Tennessee. I was 16 years old and I was nervous as I prepared for this rite of passage of getting my first driver license. I passed the written test which was on paper; kiosks hadn't been invented yet. My vehicle passed inspection; the brake lights worked. I got into the car, let the examiner get in, buckled up, pulled out of the parking lot, proved I could come to a complete stop at a stop sign, got on the interstate, got off the interstate, returned to the parking lot and received my driver license. Then my parents wouldn't let me drive for the next four months.
Life is tough when you're 16 years old.
I have driven all over the country in the decades since I began my driving experience. Never had an accident. Been pulled over a few times, but never given a ticket. Even though I've tried to drive safely, I have sometimes had some close calls with careless drivers and reckless drivers and carelessly reckless drivers. Nothing like that experience of having to make a split second decision to avoid an accident because someone is not paying attention.
Driving habits have changed in the last 40 years. In the morning people are in a hurry to get to where they don't want to go, such as the workplace. It's much the same routine in the afternoon rush hour.
Road rage has become more common on the roadway in the last 20 years. Driver in a vehicle accelerates and cuts off another driver. A horn is blown. Someone yells the old familiar profane syllables or other common expletives. Universal hand gestures are exchanged, but I reckon that's better than gunfire. Traffic continues on. The local constabulary does not see the incident. They do not appear unless there is an accident or a speed trap or a driver license checkpoint or a president or presidential candidate needs an escort and traffic needs to be backed up for a few hours.
I still remember my experience back in 2014 when I exchanged my Alabama driver license for a Mississippi driver license. I entered the building and encountered a state trooper who clearly did not want to be there. That's okay. I didn't want to be there either.
I stated my business, used the touch screen computer and went to sit down and wait and wait and wait for my number to be called. I had my eyesight tested. They transferred my motorcycle privileges from my Alabama driver license; I don't know how to ride a motorcycle, but Alabama was giving this privilege to everybody back in 1986, so Mississippi gave it to me. They asked me if I wanted to register to vote; I declined so I could avoid being called for jury duty. They took my picture and sent me on my way with an eight year driver license which I plan to renew sometime in the future online.
Even though the facility was overcrowded, I was impressed with the way they sent people where they needed to go as quickly as they could. People in need of taking a test would go into a separate room and take the test on a kiosk. Others would go outside and take a drivers test. I'm grateful I didn't have to take a written or a driver test.
I stepped outside and went to get my car inspection permit. I pulled into this garage and the mechanic on duty slapped an inspection sticker on my windshield. I paid my five dollars and I was on my way. I guess he didn't notice or didn't care that I still had my Alabama license plate on my car.
I went to get my license plate and paid an exorbitant amount of money for my license plate in cash. They don't accept out-of-state checks from local banks. Finally, I was licensed and registered to drive as a resident of Mississippi.
There is so much that goes into getting a driver license in the State of Mississippi. One would think that by earning a driver license, one would remember that there are traffic laws that need to be obeyed and followed to operate a motor vehicle safely. Too many drivers ignore these traffic laws and drive their cars without fear of impunity.
I've seen cars pass on the double line on a country road, involve themselves in near miss head on collisions in the same lane, tailgate, pass on the right shoulder of an interstate, speed up a small hill to the point of going airborne, pass a car only to slow down and make a turn in front of the same car, blow a horn or lean on a horn at a whim, speed up and run a red light with reckless disregard for human safety, burn rubber spinning back wheels in circles or donuts at the end of a road, hit a ditch and flip over. This is my experience while driving in Mississippi, and I think we can do better.
So many drivers in Mississippi are in need of a refresher course on driver safety. A Mississippi Driver's Manual is available at the Flowood Library. A free Driver's Ed Program is offered at cmrls.driving-tests.org.
This morning I passed by Troop C Driver License Headquarters. I saw people standing in line to get their driver licenses, talking to each other and staring at their cell phones.
Will successful candidates for driver licenses learn that when they sign a driver license, they are signing an agreement that they will obey the traffic laws? Will new drivers realize that driving is a privilege and not necessarily a right?
Let's have a safe driving experience as we get ready for the summer travel season.