Relief is on the way for those frustrated (or worse) by their experience trying to get a driver’s license.
This week the Department of Public Safety debuted its Inline Online system, which lets users go online to make appointments for the driving skills tests, learner’s permit test and ID cards. Appointments can be made from one to 14 days in advance.
This week it was available for three locations in the Oklahoma City area. It’ll expand to Tulsa next week and eventually to DPS’s other field offices.
The service is free for now. When it’s fully in place, there will be a fee that DPS says will be “nominal.” Our guess is parents and teens will gladly pay a few bucks to avoid the current nightmare that involves arriving at driving stations in the middle of the night in hopes of being able to take the test.
Talk about clearing a low hurdle.
Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer route, which runs from Oklahoma City to Forth Worth, Texas, is considered one of Amtrak’s success stories because it loses only $43 per rider. In the private sector, that’s a path to bankruptcy. In government, that’s an achievement.
A report by The Brookings Institution found that only four Amtrak routes nationwide manage to generate enough revenue to cover costs and most lose far more than the Heartland Flyer.
Oklahoma is one of 15 states that contribute to local Amtrak routes. The state will take on a larger role after Oct. 1 when states will be required to provide greater financial support for short routes. The only consolation for Oklahomans may be that this bad deal could have been much worse.
The effort to ban text-messaging while driving has resumed at the Capitol. The Legislature hasn’t warmed to this common-sense idea, which has been tried several times in recent years.
Three Democrats are trying again. Reps. Curtis McDaniel of Smithville, Jeannie McDaniel of Tulsa and Jerry Shoemake of Morris are behind House Bill 1503, which made it out of a House committee this week. It bans texting while a vehicle is in motion, and exempts texts to emergency response operators, medical providers, firefighters and law enforcement.
This really shouldn’t be a partisan issue but has become one — Republicans view such a ban as government intrusion on individual rights. But driving a car isn’t a right, it’s a privilege, and texting while driving endangers not just the driver but other motorists.
It’s time Oklahoma join the many states that have made texting at the wheel illegal.
A news story this month about Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak’s use of state-owned aircraft left us with a few questions.
Why does Doak feel the need to fly hither and yon as part of his job? The Tulsa World reported that only Gov. Mary Fallin has used state aircraft more than Doak. He used it in April to tour tornado damage, but also for speaking engagements and other meetings. Is that really necessary? Doak thinks so.
Speaking of necessity, the story mentioned that Oklahoma has eight fix-winged aircraft — a King Air for use by the governor and her staff, and seven Cessna-type planes. Why?
Perhaps the state would be better served to get rid of at least a few of those and consider replacing them another helicopter for use in battling wildfires.
When it comes to technology, the private sector tends to be an early adapter of innovations that fuel greater efficiency, while government is often one of the last entities to adjust to change, at times clinging to outmoded practices years after it’s become clear the costs exceed the benefits.
So it’s worth noting that the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority is now deactivating the old bulky plastic transponder units of Pikepass customers who haven’t switched to the new windshield-sticker version.
Deactivation occurs only after multiple notifications have been sent to Pikepass customers, giving them plenty of time to respond and swap out the old units for stickers.
But even this minor change in governmental operations has been driven more by necessity than the desire to modernize practices: It seems the old transponder cases are no longer being produced.
Coming soon to a location near you, perhaps: Bridge repair that doesn’t inconvenience motorists for nearly as long as usual.
The state Department of Transportation is implementing a rapid bridge-building program on a project-by-project basis. Under this program, all or parts of the new bridge will be constructed no far from the original bridge, then moved over and assembled.
First in line is a State Highway 51 bridge that spans Cottonwood Creek west of Mannford. Normally this job would take nine months to complete and traffic would be diverted for the entirety of that. But under the rapid-building program, work will last six months and motorists will be redirected for just 21 days.
The rapid-building program is likely to cost more than traditional projects, but our sense is taxpayers will be glad to trade that for added convenience.
Old-school Pikepass users, this is your final warning: On Monday the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority will be sending one more notice — the agency’s fifth in the past several months — to Pikepass users who haven’t yet switched from the old plastic devices to the new window stickers.
Beginning in early December, old Pikepasses won’t work. Motorists who pass through the automated turnpike gates using those old devices will be charged $25.
The authority has about 590,000 Pikepass accounts; 495,000 or so have switched over. In addition to the mailed notices to customers informing them of the change, the agency has reached out by phone and through newspaper ads.
Those who wind up seeing $25 charges on their bill can’t say they weren’t warned, but many are sure to do just that.
A study released this week offers further evidence that graduated licenses for young drivers are a good idea. Researchers with AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety found that the risk of a teenage driver dying in an accident increases significantly when other teens are in the car. Compared with driving with no passengers, a 16- or 17-year-old driver’s risk of death per mile driven jumps by 44 percent when carrying one passenger younger than 21. The risk doubles when carrying two passengers younger than 21. Oklahoma’s graduated license law says teenage drivers can have only one other teen in the vehicle unless someone 21 or older is along for the ride. Given this new study, parents may want to demand that their children keep passengers to a minimum even when the restrictions expire six months after a license is issued.
Photo by John Clanton, The Oklahoman Archives
“Featherbedding” is a term for a union’s ploy to force the hiring of more workers than are actually needed to accomplish a task. The U.S. Senate seems intent on imposing a form of this practice on the U.S. Postal Service, with rules that restrict the closing of post offices that clearly need to be closed. Built in to the closure criteria are layers of exceptions such as economic impact, access to broadband Internet (one of the things that has devastated first-class mail), proximity to the nearest post office, etc. USPS wants to close 3,700 post offices. Senators apparently want to shrink that number to two or three. Perhaps a dozen or so underused post offices in affluent areas with high-speed DSL and another facility within two miles might be found and actually closed. Stamp the Senate’s micromanagement plan with this watermark: What a joke!
Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman Archives
PikePass users in Oklahoma are running out of time to get their old units replaced by windshield stickers. The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority has been phasing in the new stickers over the past several months, but says about one-fourth of its customers have yet to make the switch. The OTA has mailed three notices letting customers know the old units will soon be obsolete. Those who haven’t responded will be receiving a fourth — and final — notice in the mail, in the form of a yellow postcard. Those receiving the yellow postcards will have 10 days to contact the PikePass office. If they don’t, says the director of PikePass operations, “then we’re going to turn off their PikePass.” It doesn’t get much simpler than that. But why do we expect the next turn of the crank to involve scores of angry PikePass users complaining that their service was ended without sufficient warning?
Photo by Paul Hellstern, The Oklahoman Archives