DMV tips and timely advice


Do you have questions about general driving related requirements like registration and insurance? Are you unclear about laws and restrictions related to driving? The California Department of Motor Vehicles has answers. “Save Time by Going Online,” at


Q: What is a safe distance between me and my airbag in case it inflates due to an accident?

A: You can take important steps to eliminate or reduce risk of injury without turning off your vehicles’ air bags. The biggest risk of injury is being too close to the air bag. An air bag needs about 10 inches of space to inflate. Ride at least 10 inches (measured from the center of the steering wheel to your breastbone) from the air bag cover if you can do this while maintaining full control of the vehicle. If you cannot safely sit 10 inches away from the air bag, contact your vehicle dealer or manufacturer for advice about additional ways of moving back from your air bag. For more information on air bags, please read the air bag section of the California Driver handbook located on the DMV Web site.

Q: I heard a newscaster talk about motorists “rubber-necking” in regards to a morning accident. What does the term “rubber-necking” mean?

A: Rubbernecking is a term used to describe when motorists slow down to look at accidents or virtually anything else out of the ordinary. Rubbernecking should be avoided at ALL TIMES not only because it increases traffic congestion, but because it also endangers your driving safety and that of the motorists around you. For more information on dealing with traffic congestions, please visit www.dmv. and click on the link to the California Driver Handbook.

Q: Where do I go to take my driver’s license tests?

A: You may take the written, vision and driving tests at any DMV office which provides driver’s license services. Written and vision tests are required when you apply for an original or upgrade to a different class of license. Written tests may be required for a license renewal and driving tests are usually waived for the class of license you currently have. However, the department may require a driving test for any type of application. Appointments are available for all DMV services and are usually required for the driving test. For more information, please visit

and click on driver license.

Q: Does the DMV offer a grace period from the date my current insurance is canceled to the day I obtain new insurance?

A: No. Your vehicle must be insured if it’s parked on a California street, road or highway. There are no exceptions. For more information, please visit


Q: I have an old car and I found a set of old California black plates with yellow numbers that is in mint condition. I checked to see if the plate was clear or not being used. All clear. Can I register this plate to my 1936 Ford 5 Window Coupe? If not, can I get a personal plate assigned to my vehicle?

A: The black and gold plates that you have cannot be assigned to your 1936 Ford. The only statutory program that allows old plates to be placed on currently registered vehicles is the Year of Manufacture Program. Under this program 1969 and older vehicles and 1972 and older commercial vehicles may apply to have license plates assigned to the vehicle which matches the vehicle’s year of manufacture (for example, a 1956 plate with a 1958 sticker equals a 1958 plate).

In your case, the only license plates that would qualify for assignment to your 1936 Ford would be those issued in 1936. A 1936 license plate had an orange background with oversize black numbers (Larger than the numbers used on modern license plates) and a 36 stamped in the upper right corner.

You can certainly obtain a personalized Environmental License Plate (ELP’s) since there is no statutory restriction that would prevent it.

Additional information regarding the Year of Manufacture license plate program and the ELP program is available on the department’s Web site at


The DMV is a department under the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, which is under the direction of Secretary Dale E. Bonner. The DMV licenses drivers, maintains driving records, registers and tracks official ownership of vehicles and vessels, investigates auto and identity-related fraud, and licenses car dealers, driving schools, and traffic violator schools. For more information about the DMV, visit