From soaring gas prices to bad drivers on the roads, it would seem that America’s love affair with the automobile has hit a serious speed bump.
Since Henry Ford changed the world in the early 1900s by producing an automobile within the economic reach of the average American, the nation has been speeding along on a host of economic, demographic and social levels, leading to the growth of metropolitan areas and towns in places that went previously unpopulated.
But over a century later, driving has become a less of a glorious freedom and more of a necessary evil for millions of Americans, as congestion and a host of other problems can make getting behind the wheel quite maddening.
Take, for example, the higher cost of gasoline currently being experienced by drivers. The last thing working people and the nation’s fragile economy need is for higher gas prices to lighten wallets and drive up the costs of everyday goods.
If the higher costs to fill up aren’t bad enough, drivers who hit the road are forced to share it with untrained or improperly trained drivers who haven’t a clue about the rules of the road— increasing the risk of accidents which can lead to injury, death and higher insurance premiums.
Last week, it was discovered that the N&Y Professional Service Line driving school in Brooklyn had concocted an elaborate, high-tech cheating scam to get commercial driver’s licenses for people without the necessary skills.
One of the driving school’s graduates included a driver who faces manslaughter charges after admiting to authorities that he fell asleep before a low-fare bus from Greensboro, N.C, to New York City crashed in Virginia last June. Four passengrs died, and dozens were injured.
The whole scam was uncovered after an agent from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), who was fluent in Mandarin, went to the driving school seeking a license to drive a bus. The owners assured him that they could help him pass the written test in exchange for $1,800.
School co-owner Ying Wai Phillip Ng drove the underdcover agent to the DMV on Staten Island. Ng had the agent put on a jacket with a camera hidden in the right sleeve to provide a live feed to a video monitor inside his minivan.
Ng instructed the agent that once inside he should point the camera at the multiple-choice test. He also gave the agent a pager and explained it would vibrate twice if the correct answer was A, four times for B and six times for C. The undercover agent passed the test.
Both Ng and the school’s co-owner, Pui Kuen Ng, are married and naturalized U.S. citizens and are charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
As a result of this discovery, more than 170 people who got their commercial driver’s licenses from the school must immediately schedule tests to demonstrate their qualifications; if they fail, they face suspension of their licenses.
There are no easy solutions to the litany of problems drivers face today. Getting behind the wheel is becoming a task that isn’t for the faint of heart, and it seems that with every new problem, fewer Americans will have the heart or passion to drive.