The Motor Vehicle Commission has ordered you to take a retest. You don't want to. You may not have to!

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Certain situations authorize or even require that the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (“MVC”) subject a driver to a retest. One of those situations, for example, is a driver is involved in a reportable car accident two times within a six-month period, when motor vehicle points are assessed in each accident. This requirement is contained in N.J.S. 39:3-10e. The retest that the MVC orders typically includes a vision test, a law knowledge test, and a behind-the-wheel demonstration. However, the MVC cannot arbitrarily require that the driver submit to a retest.

Elderly New Jersey motorists routinely find themselves told to take such a retest following an incident. This incident can be a single driving infraction. It can be a single accident. The hallmark of this situation is that the driver is elderly. The incident in question is one that would be completely unremarkable but for the age of the driver. But age of driver, standing alone, is not a valid reason to require the retest.

This principle governs the case of Division of Motor Vehicles v. Cioffi, 95 N.J.A.R.2d (MVH) 57. Jean Cioffi was approximately 85 years old when she was involved in an accident. Ms. Cioffi had gone through a red light and hit another car that had the green light. The report of the investigating officer described Ms. Cioffi as being confused and unaware of her surroundings.

The administrative law judge found Ms. Cioffi to be alert, articulate, and responsive. Her driver license point history consisted of just two moving violation points. Those two points arose from the accident that resulted in the MVC demand for the retest. By the time her matter reached the hearing stage before an administrative law judge, even those two points had been reduced to zero!

The behind-the-wheel portion of the retest can be especially onerous. The driver must bring to the testing center a car that provides the examiner with access to the emergency brake. Cars typically have a center console that limits that access. Unless the driver can borrow a conforming car, he must rent one. At his own expense. Whether borrowed or rented, that conforming car will be one that the driver does not ordinarily use. Thus the driver must pass a retest using an unfamiliar car.

The law knowledge test is another farce. Everyone know they must obey the speed limit. Everyone knows they must stop at a stop sign, and stop at a red light. Everyone knows that must not drive the wrong way on a one-way street. So the driving test, instead, asks questions that have nothing to do with safe everyday driving. These questions might relate, for example, to stopping distance, in feet, on a wet road at a particular speed. Who cares what the number of feet is? What is important is that the driver keeps a safe enough condition under given driving conditions. Whether the driver has memorized what number of feet that is means nothing.

We provide the full Cioffi decision elsewhere. Note, however, that familiarity with the Cioffi decision is only the beginning. The “heavy lifting” consists of requiring the New Jersey MVC to follow the principles contained in that decision. The driver will still be required to refute the contention of MVC that he or she is unable to drive safely. Refuting that contention has many steps. Motorists can attempt to do all this on their own, without a lawyer. But it is a minefield. Assistance from a New Jersey Driver's License lawyer will hugely raise the likelihood of successful navigation through this minefield.

Allan Marain and Norman Epting, Jr. are New Jersey Driver's License lawyers. They have the skill and the knowledge needed to help provide this successful navigation. They would welcome your call.

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