Tips on safety, procedure and more from the DMV

Today’s Street Smarts tips come directly from the Department of Motor Vehicles, which emails me weekly with some good tidbits for every scenario. Below, I’ve compiled some topics that have and have not been addressed in this blog, or offer a different viewpoint to a popular question. Passing big rigs safely “The presence of trucks on the road is challenging for many drivers,” according to the DMV. “Be mindful, however, that they have major blind spots that make driving challenging for them, too. The most important thing to remember is that if you can’t see truckers’ mirrors, they most likely can’t see you … It’s very important that you leave plenty of room between your vehicle and the truck, and before merging or passing, make sure you are visible to the driver. When passing a truck, speed up and try to get around them quickly -- but safely and within the speed limit. Do not linger, because it prohibits trucks from having room to move in the event they approach an obstacle in the road.” Stolen license plate(s) If someone took off with your license plate(s), you must replace it -- or them -- as soon as possible. You can do that by mail, as long as you are the registered owner of the vehicle and your address has not change. You can also get new plates in person at the DMV office. Before you go down there, and to avoid long lines, make an appointment online at For information about the replacement process, visit Be advised, you will have to pay a replacement fee for your new license plate(s). Organ donor status Drivers no longer need to place a sticker on their driver license to indicate their interest in donated their organs. “Now, when you obtain or renew your California Driver license, you can simply check the ‘YES, I want to be an Organ and Tissue donor!’ box on your renewal form,” according to the DMV. “This will automatically place you on the Donate Life California Registry, and it guarantees that your wish to be a donor will be honored. When you receive your new driver license, a pink ‘donor’ dot will be printed on it.” Parking ticket at fire hydrant where curb is unmarked Drivers may be accustomed to seeing red curb paint wherever there is a fire hydrant, but that is not always the case. And if you park at a hydrant that does not have a red curb in front of it, you can still get a ticket. “The California Driver Handbook clearly states that you are never to park within 15 feet of a fire hydrant, even if the curb is not painted,” according to the DMV. “For future reference, please note that you cannot park within 15 feet of a fire station driveway, either.” Sharing disabled placards If one of your grandparents had a disabled placard before s/he died and your family never got rid of it, no one else in your family may use it if they develop a disability themselves. “It is illegal for anyone other than the registered owner to use a Disabled Person Placard,” according to the DMV. Old placards that belonged to someone who is deceased should be turned over to the state agency to prevent misuse. If someone else is caught using it, they will receive a minimum fine of $250 with a maximum of $3,500 or imprisonment up to 6 months, or both. If you or someone else in your family needs a disabled placard, they can obtain one by printing out an application from, having their doctor sign off on it and then submitting it to the DMV. Walking tips Did you know that one out of every six traffic fatalities is a pedestrian? The 2009 California Driver Handbook offers several tips to help pedestrians reach their destinations safely: • Always cross at a crosswalk. Never “jaywalk,” or cross a street between intersections. • Do not suddenly leave a curb -- or other pedestrian safe haven -- and walk or run into the path of a vehicle close enough to do harm to you. • If there is no sidewalk, walk toward oncoming traffic along the roadside. • When a signal light turns green or indicates “WALK” for you, look left, right, and then left again before crossing. Yield the right of way to any vehicle in the intersection before you proceed. • Make yourself more visible at night by wearing white clothing and reflective materials or by carrying a flashlight. For more infomation about these and other topics, visit
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