Under Nobody's Thumb

This week, readers want to know whether their thumbs are safe from government interference and whether they can get an offensive plate off the road.

And the Road Warrior finds a handicapped plate that perhaps should note the driver's problem is not physical, but mental.

Linda King asks: Please run an article to increase public awareness about the federal ID chips to be implanted by the DMV in everyone's thumb as of May 2008. Remember George Orwell's book "Animal Farm?" Is Big Brother really watching us? Is this country now a military state? What are the health risks of this invasive procedure? Futurists would call this the mark of the beast. What happened to personal freedom?

Your thumbs are safe for now, Linda. The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles has no plans to insert anything into anyone's body anytime, though they've certainly been accused of sticking it to valley drivers for a long, long time.

The latter notwithstanding, they've heard the former rumor.

"That thing has been going around on the Internet," said Tom Jacobs, a DMV spokesman.

Linda might have confused the rumor with plans to carry out the federal "Real ID Act," which requires states to follow various new rules and formats in issuing driver's licenses and state ID cards to make such cards harder to fraudulently obtain.

That plan is scheduled to take effect here on May 8, 2008, though Nevada officials are seeking an extension.

"It simply levels the requirements for a driver's license across the board nationally," Jacobs said. "Each state has its own rules right now."

In Nevada, it probably would require drivers to offer a birth certificate, Social Security card and proof of residency to get a driver's license, according to Jacobs.

"The rules are still up in the air. We're hoping you'll only have to do that once," and not every time a license is renewed, Jacobs said.

Problem is, the implementation of "Real ID" might be complex. Motor bureau officials here and nationwide fear such a rule would cause already-long lines at DMV bureaus to multiply in size. States would have to cover the added costs of processing the detailed applications because the feds aren't chipping in a dime. And civil libertarians believe the rule creates a de facto national ID card.

"It's expensive. It's complicated. It's time-consuming," Jacobs said. "There's considerable resistance across the country."

Given the opposition, it's possible that Congress will modify or cancel "Real ID" before the implementation deadline. We'll have to wait to see whether the program gets the final thumbs-up. HA!

The myth-debunking Web site Snopes.com has its take on "Real ID" and the related urban legend at http://www.snopes.com/politics/traffic/realid.asp.

By the way, I think Linda's "Big Brother" reference recalled Orwell's novel "1984," not "Animal Farm."

Debbie Douchette asks: I was astounded when I recently saw a license plate on a black Saturn Vue with the word "DRUNKY." Is there a way to effectively complain about an offensive license plate?

Sure is. Members of the public can report an offensive license plate to the DMV, along with a reason they're offended. "And we'll look at it," Jacobs said.

Generally, the DMV will reject vanity plate applications bearing a lewd, mean or off-putting message (though how "DRUNKY" made the cut is beyond me).

"There's been instances in the past where something will get by us," Jacobs said. "We have, historically, taken plates off the road when it's offensive."

What's offensive?

According to Nevada Administrative Code 482.320, on vanity plates "no combination of letters, numbers or spaces is allowed if it creates confusion with any combination on other license plates; expresses contempt, ridicule or superiority of race, ethnic heritage, religion, gender or political affiliation; contains any connotation that is sexual, vulgar, derogatory, profane or obscene; contains a direct or indirect reference to a drug or drug paraphernalia or gang; makes a defamatory reference to a person or group; (or) is determined by the department to be inappropriate."

By the way, you can't order a blank plate, either.

To report a bad plate, anyone can write to the Administrator, Central Services and Records, Department of Motor Vehicles, 555 Wright Way, Carson City, NV 89711-0400. Or you can send an e-mail to info@dmv.state.nv.us.

Again, be sure to include why you feel the plate is offensive, in case it's a term that a DMV plate-checker is unfamiliar with.

Hit 'n' Run: Seen this month on westbound Washington Avenue just east of Tenaya Way: a grey Chrysler Concorde using the striped bicycle/parking lane as a passing lane.

The offending car carried handicap plates.

I assume the handicap is stupidity.

If you have a question, tip or tirade, call the Road Warrior at 387-2904, or e-mail him at roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com or OSofradzija@reviewjournal.com. Please include your phone number.