We’re Here to Help

I got a love note — electronically of course — from my local Department of Motor Vehicles.

I found this somewhat surprising.

I had no idea they had such strong feelings, and certainly didn’t expect them to express them in writing.

Here’s what they said to me:

 

Important information about Maryland registered historic vehicles

Dear Historic Vehicle Owner,

As the owner of a historic vehicle, we want to make you aware of legislation passed by the Maryland General Assembly that goes into effect on Saturday, October 1, 2016. It is important to know that this legislation will impact how historic vehicles may be operated.

Effective October 1, 2016, a Maryland registered historic vehicle may no longer be used for transportation to and from employment, school, or for commercial purposes.

In addition, historic vehicles with a model year of 1986 or newer may be subject to safety equipment repair orders issued at roadside by law enforcement.

Thank you for your compliance with this new Maryland law.

 

I’ll admit that I was taken aback by this communication.

What struck me right away was two things. First, was the fact that the state had elected to change the terms under which the registration had been applied for and granted. Changing the rules for something which had already occurred is the key feature of laws which get thrown out during judicial review. The second, frankly, was its lack of clarity and specificity.

Was ‘transportation to and from employment, school’ primary or repeated, routine transportation, or any one time event?

I’ll own two motorcycles that are registered as Historic motor vehicles. I have other non-historic, plain old motor vehicles registered in the my home state. I don’t put on as many miles as I used to, since a lot of IT work is home based or remote, these days.  I do sometimes go to corporate offices or client locations, but I am not a daily commuter.

But give me a temperate, sunny day when I have a local meeting, and I will, on occasion pick my 1975 R90S as the vehicle of choice. The R90S — which no one will deny is a historically important motor vehicle — meets or exceeds all modern highway safety requirements, can cruise comfortably well above posted speed limits, can carry my lunchbag, oh, and is fun.

Imagine one imaginary perfect spring morning, sunny and just under 70 degrees. I’m riding down an imaginary Maryland highway, when I hear the “woOt!” of a siren being blipped at me and see the blue lights strobing in my mirrors.

Imaginary me indicates right, pulls to the shoulder, shuts down, puts the bike on the stand, and dismounts.

By the time the trooper approaches, I’ve removed my helmet and sat it on the bike’s saddle.

“Good morning, Sir.”

“Good morning, trooper. Is there some problem?”

Now you might well ask yourself, why am I so seemingly well rehearsed in the details of having one’s motorcycle stopped by law enforcement officers while on the highway?

Then again, you might not be the inquisitive sort, and you might not remark on that at all.

“Sir, when I pulled you over were you …..going to work?”

Probably one more beat would go by than was altogether healthy before I could imagine a response.

“Oh, no sir, its waaay to nice a morning to be going to work. I was actually headed out to pick up some doughnuts.

Wanna Come?”

“No thank you, Sir. Be safe out there. Have a nice day.”

 

***

 

Look, I’ll cop to being an ethical human being that values and respects integrity and listening to it when it talks to you.

And it pains me to even consider this but I think we would all agree that there are some lies that fall into that category that William S. Burroughs used to categorize with the query, “Wouldn’t You?”.

I just never imagined myself being placed in position where — for my own preservation — I’d have to lie about… going to work…”

It still kind of makes my head spin just to give it voice.

 

***

 

I try not to get political, but sometime political gets you instead.

I don’t really know for sure which problem my legislature was trying to solve, although I have my guesses.

My best one is that they think that the state is losing out on registration revenue because some folks are registering their daily use vehicle as ‘Historic’ when that now covers any vehicle older than 1991.

Heck, my very first new car, a 1991 Mazda Protege, would be eligible for Historic tags.

Sobering, that.

Anyway, by that by trying to define ‘daily use’ or primary motor vehicle in this way that they would get those folks to cough up for non-historic, full cost plates.

But that definition fails to get the desired result or give law enforcement any tools to enforce it.

Lots of us that hang around here have historic motorcycles.

I’m betting that some of you even have…. historic cars (shudder).

How the state restricts your right to operate them is a big deal, so we want to make sure they get it right.

How much money I pay the state in registration fees would make your stomach hurt.

I have multiple non-historic cars and motorcycles. Any one of them is considered my daily use vehicle by the company that insures them all. So when I take one of the historic bikes out for a ride, the notion that my state can define certain uses as permitted and certain uses as illegal is just more than I’m willing to accept.

I’ve already written to my State Senator to tell him to write a law that fixes their problem but that this isn’t it.

I’mma fight. For my right.

To putt free.

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