Monday, 9 July 2012


Your vehicle might be forfeited if you speed or commit any of a hundred or motor vehicle driving offences. Along with forfeiture of vehicles the Great Nanny State is taking away or not renewing your driver’s licenses for a host of reasons including some that have nothing to do with driving. Increasingly, lawmakers around Canada and the U.S. are using their control of licenses to enforce public policies that have nothing to do with driving or motor vehicles.

It started with taking away driver’s licenses for non payment of child maintenance but has since expanded into other areas. Simson L. Garfinkel (in a blog, Nobody Fucks with the DMV) points out that in his state of Massachusetts, you can't renew your driver's license if you have outstanding parking tickets, unpaid moving violations or if you owe excise tax on your automobile. "Oregon has 109 different offenses that can result in the temporary suspension of a driver's license; 50 of them have nothing at all to do with driving. In Wisconsin, you can lose your driver's license if you forget to pay your library fines, don't shovel the snow off your sidewalk, or don't trim a tree that overhangs a neighbor's property." 

Apparently a 1989 law in Wisconsin allows any municipal court to suspend a driver's license for non-payment of any fine including non-payment of traffic fines, library fines, failure to shovel your sidewalk, failure to trim your trees that might be hanging over somebody else's property and any other municipal fine that a person refuses or is unable to pay.

Driver’s license denial is widely used as government’s debt collection instrument of choice. In British Columbia a debt to the Province or to the Federal government can result in a refusal to issue or renew or lead to a suspension of a driver’s license. Obviously suspension of a driver's license is more effective than a court order for getting money out of people.

Authorities across North America have found that taking away a driver’s license is a very effective instrument of social control. There are multi-faceted way that driver’s licenses are now being used as an instrument of social control. In Ontario, for example, high school students who drop out before the age of 18 are denied the right to drive. Several American states have legislated similar provisions. Although well intentioned in a Nanny State sort of way a provision like this makes it very difficult for the school drop outs to find employment and starts them down the road to a life on welfare. Adding to the Orwellian atmosphere in Ontario doctors are required to disclose the name of any patient they believe may not be able to drive for medical reasons. They now report 50,000 people a year to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

The motivation of the bureaucrats is obvious. Being able to drive is for many people a virtual necessity; often it is also the "license" needed to earn a living. Canada and the United States are hugely dependent upon the automobile - outside of the core of major cities there is little efficient public transportation. Consequently this gives governments unimaginable power to affect people's lives by a simple administrative action. Like with administrative forfeiture - licenses can be suspended or refused with very little bothersome process. Typically in B.C. the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles can act without the necessity of going through any kind of judicial or quasi-judicial process. 

That is precisely what a 74 year old man in Vancouver discovered. He was reported to B.C.’s Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles (OSMV) by a physician who had not even seen him (the gentleman was late for an appointment). The Superintendent promptly cancelled his licence - again without any process. When the cancellation letter came in the mail, it was a complete surprise to the man. He subsequently was thoroughly examined by a physician who said he was perfectly fit to drive. The Superintendent, however, required him to take a computer test which apparently is supposed to measure alertness. He failed the test as do a near majority of the people who are forced to take it (how many government officials and provincial MLA’s would fail the test - interesting question?). 

In British Columbia one institution has been given the job of not only insuring vehicles but also of issuing and suspending driving licenses. ICBC provides a highly efficient instrument for using driver’s licenses as both a government tax collection instrument and a way to socially control people.

There is also a broad trend in North America to use driver’s licenses as an identity card without equal. The computerization of records at both state or provincial levels and federally were part of an effort to improve government efficiency by coordinating different government databases - in the U.S. in particular, it was part of a drive to catch so-called "Welfare Queens" who were allegedly bilking the system at the expense of the taxpayer. Lawmakers quickly realized the power to control people that they possessed with this information when it was combined with their authority over motor vehicle licenses. Initiatives to block people's driver's licenses and renewals were so effective that legislatures started looking for other ways to exercise this newfound power.

The Ontario government now issues a "high-security" drivers' licences. The government believed it could convince the U.S. to accept the new licences as alternatives to passports, which American law now requires to be used to cross the border by land. The new Ontario licences feature laser engraving, holograms, currency-like print quality and other security measures invisible to the naked eye, said a government source familiar with the project

In the United States 45 States participate in the "Interstate Driver’s Licence Compact" which has as its objective that there is only one drivers licence record. In Canada bureaucratic control of driver’s licenses (and suspensions and refusals to issue) is also being organized on a national scale. In 1990 most Canadian Provinces and Territories entered into an agreement to exchange traffic offence information. Under the term of the Canadian compact, each participating Province and Territory agreed that infractions committed by the driver, would result in the application of demerit points in the driver’s home Province’s driving record. As well, each participating Province and Territory agreed to transfer the driver’s licence information if that driver was moving to another Province or Territory.

In 2001 the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administration approved changes to the Compact, which had the effect of mandating that each participating Province/Territory where the offence had occurred would have to notify the home jurisdiction of the driver’s offence, expecting the home Province/Territory to take action with respect to unpaid fines, suspensions etc. This can include the home Province/Territory having to withhold/suspend the driver’s driving privileges or the denial of vehicle registration.

Eventually bureaucratic control of driver’s licenses will be organized on a continental scale. Canada and the US will strive towards one driver’s licence and one driver’s licence record There will be a North America driver’s licence. Who would have thought that a driver’s license would become the ideal instrument of tracking and controlling people?


  1. North America Driver's License Union? You sound even more paranoid than the left wing Security and Prosperity Partnership/secret N.A. labour union folks!

  2. I fully agree with your position. However, I fully support increased bureaucratic power and reduced bureaucratic responsibilities in cases where I am the bureaucrat using those powers irresponsibly.

  3. Ignore the idiots who claim you're paranoid. They have no ability to identify trends and establish projections. It is happening and it's happening faster than I had expected.