August 21, 2011 -- Vt. Motor Vehicles Commissioner Rob Ide joins Darren Perron and Keith McGilvery to discuss motor vehicle laws including texting changes.
From vermont's most trust the news source. Wcax brings you your news makers, your neighbors. This is you can quote me.
Good morning everyone i'm darren perron.
And i'm keith mcgilvery. Our news maker is department of motor vehicles commissioner rob ide.
Plus your neighbors in the news. Pitcher, catcher, translator? A new position for the lake monsters. A challenging adventure for some young vermonters. Kids hit a high note at summer camp and barton's record-breaking parade. The town gets the cadillac crown. All coming up.
But first we are talking about the department of motor vehicles, our guest this sunday morning is commissioner rob ide. He spent a decade in the state legislature before transitioning to transportation. He has held his current post for two years. Commissioner, thanks so much for joining us this sunday morning. In the news this week, texting while driving. An 18 year old allegedly texting while driving hit a pedestrian who is now seriously injured. You are the commissioner. Your reaction to all this?
It was deeply deeply disappointing to say the least. We spearheaded the effort to pass the bill that brought about the texting while driving ban. We have done a number of demonstrations in high schools across the state with students and we have to really ask that the public cooperate with this law. It is a difficult law to enforce to be able to -- for a police officer to know definitively that someone is texting but certainly the electronic records point that out in cases. And it is always very very disappointing when we hear about an injury, particularly an injury of this type and secretary of transportation ray la hood has made this his national campaign as the issue of distracted driving and we have worked very closely with the secretary and we are proud of our efforts but clearly we need to get our message to the motoring public in a more aggressive way.
Spell that law out for people at home when it relates to texting and driving.
The operator of a moving motor vehicle if they are found or observed to be texting, using their electronic device, for written communications they can be ticketed. It is a ticket similar to a traffic violation ticket. It is paid usually quite quickly. When it does happen. And there have been over 60 of the tickets written in the state since the enactment of the law. But clearly this and the use of cell phones, people need to become more personally responsible and understand that the distraction is very serious. Being distracted for a very short period of time moves you a number of feet down the highway and it is very very dangerous and people need to make the conscious choice to put their electronic devices away while they are driving. Another caveat of the law is if you are stopped at a stop light, it is legal at that point to use your device but certainly encourage people to put the device down, make their journey, pick the device back up after they shut the car off.
Vermont teens heading back to school and just a couple of weeks you made mention to efforts to educate that population. What are they doing?
We have over the last year and a half had a very aggressive texting program where we have gone to over 30 high schools around the state and we have put on a demonstration where we have sue dent volunteers who get in a golf cart with one of our officers, they drive through a marked coned course. The course has some driving challenges in it such as stop signs and corners. And as they are going through the course, the observers -- the other inspectors count the number of cones that get hit. And this is a timed exercise and the first time they go through the course, they are not texting. And then after they steb a benchmark time we ask them to go through a second time -- we are conscious that they will be texting during that time, and they try to text their name and their physical street address to one of their friends that's work -- watching on the side and three things happen. The time to go through the course goes up, the number of cones that hit goes up, and lastly, the quality of the text is so poor that it really never was worth sending to begin with.
A lost attention on teens behind the wheel. Message goes to everyone.
This is a message for all ages. It certainly is. You know, our efforts have been in the high school program. We felt that similar to seat belts and to some extent no smoking campaigns that if we can get the youngest generation trained, they help to treat -- to teach the elder generation and so that is where we are putting our resources. We are approaching that differently. Our intention always was to establish the program and to establish its credibility. We have shown the program across the country and done interviews in great britain and new zealand with the success that we are having. But we really want to know graduate to the next generation of programs where a local sheriff department, local police departments and we are working very closely with the vermont youth safety council and getting this program out there so this we can maybe take a little step back and feel like we have trained the trainers.
Sure. Texting certainly dangerous but so can talking on the phone. Where do things stand in vermont when it comes to cell phone use?
Our legislature and this governor and previous governors have been reluctant to move forward with any sort of a cell phone ban. It certainly is happening in some other states. I doubt that the vermont legislature would really have the appetite for taking that bill up. But having said that, it is imperative that people make a conscious choice to fro text their own safety. We choose this in a number of ways in our life. And the governor feels that if well educated people realize the dangers that they should have the ability to make the conscious choice to put their electronic device down.
So you spent a good deal of your career in transportation. Do you agree with that or do you think we should have some kind of ban on cell phone use as we do with texting?
Let me tell you about my own personal bee pave your because hi a very early cell phone when i was serving in the state senate and used it primarily to con sers v -- converse with my doubt here was feeling withdrawal pains of a parent being away serving in the legislature. One night on the way home to st. Johns bury i found myself getting close to the bottom side of a tractor-trailer that was carrying milk. And i was so frightened that day that i took the phone out of my car and you will not find me talking on the phone in my car. And you will not find me texting. I have had an experience where it was frightening and i realized that i'm in control and i should be able to protect my own health and safety.
You are switching gears just a little bit. Your department has spent a piece of its summer on the move. I know that you had an office in burlington and you have moved to south burlington. What was behind that move and how is it going?
Let's -- let's answer the last part first because it is easy. It is going wonderfully. We are very very pleased with our move. What happened was we were in a complex, a school complex on north avenue and there was a construction project going on within the real estate that we were a tenant, a part of it. We had expectations that we were going to be able to maintain the -- environmental quality of our facility both for our public and for our employees. As the construction project progressed, we realized that we were facing some significant challenges. And we really had a point in time where we had to react quite quickly and we made a conscious choice that we needed to vacate that facility. As soon as we had crossed that threshold, then we started to look for new space and we were looking in the general area of somewhere near the interstate highway system between the corners exit on the south and the winooski exit or exit 16 to colchester on the north. And we found the site that where we have moved to on market street in south burlington. We made that move for approximately a month ago now and our staff were very happy in their new facilities. We were getting very positive feedback from the public. We think that as a site in the greater chittenden county area, it will have more interest to more people and that we will see our numbers actually increase when we have some time in the space.
So it sounds like this is a permanent move?
I can't say that today. We have a two-year lease. The state will continue to have a condominium right in the school property. We need to be sure that it works for us. But moving is expensive. We have obviously expended stop staff resources and some finances to make the move. We are optimistic that this move might work well for us and that south burlington would be our home. But it is a fair question. It is just premature for me to have a definitive answer
certainly great for vermont drivers who have access to a facility like that but not everyone does. Some people live in communities where they are a little bit farther away. You have mobile units that help with that?
We do. We have 6 permanent units where we have store fronts that are open every day and 5 additional communities that we visit on a temporary basis. Or i day by day basis. So each week our mobile van that serves the northern part of the state has office hours in st. Al bans and st. Johns bury and in white river junction. We have a second van, very similar equipment, very similarly trained staff and that van services middlebury and dummerston on a weekly basis. We are able to hit a total of 11 communities every week with live people and the ability to do most transactions.
What types of service, a whole range of them there?
A whole range of services. Certainly registrations and licenses. New registrations. The most common things that we do, motor boats and snowmobiles as well. One of the services that is limited is what is called our enhanced driver's license which is a document that allows people to have both a driver's lie sense in their pocket and a border crossing document for north america and the three sites that offer it, the enhanced driver's license are montpelier, south burlington and in rutland.
Great. We will switch gears. Again just a little bit, this week we reached out to a lot of our channel 3 viewers, using social networking and facebook and asked them for their questions for you. And we will start with could lien. She says everything should be able to be done on-line. What can people do on-line and what do they still need to come see you for?
They can do license renewals and registrationings on-line. Those are the two things that we do the best. We think. We also have kiosks in a number of our locations so if someone wants to renew their registration they can do that without seeing a clerk. You know, we do the -- a lot of our business through the mail. So we talk about our retail locations but still the vast majority of our transactions are by mail, either dealers submitting information to us or people renewing through the mail system. So you know, we intend to and we do pride ourselves in the quality customer service that we give across our counter. We do offer other ways for people who choose to have their transactions that way. And certainly if we were to do a demographics study of our users, there is a generation coming that is much more electronically savvy. It is a gross generalization i understand. But a lot of people do expect to be able to do business electronically. And a feature that we have started to -- that's legal for us to use recently is if someone renews their registration on-line, the last day of a month, they can print out the receipt from their computer and that serves as a temporary registration document until they get their perm then document from us in the mail.
And of course none -- let's stress that. Switching gears, john wants to know if there is more your office can do to keep repeat drunk drivers off the road.
You know, i think drunk drivers is something teas incredibly frustrating for all of us. I think one of the -- the things that is most difficult for me to understand, and i -- maybe your -- for your lick as well. We assume that when someone's license is suspended we assume they top driving when many take that risk and a dangerous risk. You know the state has tried a number of programs to toughen drunk driving. We are just now instituting a device whereby it is called the ignition interlock device where a person has a restricted license and they can only drive a car that has that device installed. We really have gone full bore with that pro grl on the first of july. We are seeing applicants using it and a device that is being use add cross the country. But comes down in a lot of ways to personal choices and it is very frustrating when people make mad choice particularly when they en danger the public and that's what happens with a lot of drunk driving cases.
Sure we are right in the middle of red sox nation right here in vermont match rya park wants to know when will vermont get a red sox license plate?
We have had those conversations with people associated with the red sox. You know, in some ways it is a numbers game because there is a cost to the organization and something this a number of states are doing. We have to remind our selves that we are a very small state of approximately 600,000 people. And when you start to do special programs, be they the special plates, we already offer or a red sox plate, people -- institutions like the red sox sort of when they start to push the numbers and think what the percentages are it is a business decision for them. And you know we would not do this independent of activity that would include the red sox foundation. We have had the conversations with the new england pay reots as well and with the boston bruins.
I'm sure my inbox is already filling up with e-mails from yankees fans within thing their license police as well. John wants to know rules about plates. I know you had an announcement or information you wanted to share about plates. He is curious about how many plates does he need, how many stickers does he need.
Sure. He notes two license plates, one on the rear of of his automobile and one on the automobile or truck, which ever it is. The one sticker is affixed to the rear plate. The law enforcement commune and for identification purposes, that's why vermont has stayed with two plates. As a cost savings methods there have been states and canadian provinces who have gone to one plate and interestingly, more recently the trend has been some of those that have tried one plate are going back to two plates. Not every state has stick stickers or every province. Quebec is an example of a provins that no longer uses stickers. We still use a single sticker. The legislature voted that change a few years ago. And we ask that it be affixed to the bottom right-hand corner of the rear plate. Seems to be very confusing as to where the put the sticker and you see it in a lot of different places but the bottom right hand corn soar we are a two-plate, one-sticker state.
Just about 30 seconds left here. Plates with painting issues.
We had some faded paint plates than year the legislature gave us the authority to replace those plates at no cost so if a person does have plates that had a manufacturing defect where the green has lightened, if they would bring those plates into one of our office we will replace with it a generic plate on the spot.
Commissioner, thanks so much for joining us. We enjoyed it.