Defective D.C. registration stickers could result in driver penalties

Driver William Scherman received a ticket for having his registration sticker on the dashboard instead of the windshield. This picture from the ticket writer shows a potential problem with the adhesive on the stickers. Dozens of complaints to WTOP Ticketbuster led to DPW suspending ticketing for this and DMV launching an investigation. (Courtesy of DC DPW)

UPDATED May 2, 6 p.m.: William Scherman tells WTOP that the DMV has dismissed his ticket.

EARLIER: WASHINGTON– More than a dozen D.C. drivers have come to WTOP Ticketbuster to complain about registration stickers falling off their windshields, resulting in tickets.

Today, the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles acknowledged there might be a problem, and has taken action to address the issue.

WTOP Ticketbuster alerted Council Member Mary Cheh, D.C. DMV, and the D.C. Department of Public Works last Saturday to a ticket issued to William Scherman. He received a $50 ticket from DPW Officer Annette White for displaying his ticket on the dashboard, rather than his windshield. White’s photograph showed the sticker under where it was supposed to stick to the windshield.

A Yahoo! Group of residents in Brookland also complained about the problem, and receiving $50 tickets under similar circumstances. As more e-mails came into Ticketbuster, we forwarded them to DMV.

“People were reaching out to WTOP and other media outlets and posting on listservs about this problem. So now that we’re aware of this problem, we are making sure we address it,” says DMV Director Lucinda Babers. “Every other month, someone contacts us (about this). But not so many people, such that we stopped and said, ‘Wait a minute. We may have a problem.'”

On Tuesday, Babers and DPW Director William Howland agreed to suspend ticketing for stickers on the dashboard, so long as it remains visible to the officer from the outside.

“Primarily it’s DPW and DDOT (District Department of Transportation) that are ticketing for this. So at roll call, we’ve advised all staff to not ticket for that until we hear back from the DMV about it,” says Howland.

DMV says anyone who has a sticker that peels off should contact them immediately to request a new sticker. DMV also will ask you to return the defective sticker because it wants to research what is causing the problem.

“We want the sticker back, so that we can start communicating with our vendor. We’ve already alerted them to the issue. We want to know: was it a bad batch? How big is the problem? What is the problem? Things like that so we now how to fix it,” says Babers.

As for Scherman, DPW will not dismiss his ticket.

“If she (Babers) determines that there is a problem, then we will void the ticket. But until I hear definitive word, we will not void the ticket. We want to know if there is a problem with the adhesive first,” says Howland.

However, Babers says that hearing examiners will get extra discretion to dismiss tickets that drivers challenge due to the adhesive, although it’s up to the driver to contact DMV and raise the issue quickly. Therefore, it’s possible most of these tickets will end up being dismissed.

AAA Mid-Atlantic says Howland and Babers acted quickly and have handled this situation well.

“D.C. has done a good job getting out in front of this, being proactive and trying to address the issue immediately. It’s now up to the driver to let the DMV know if there is a problem with their sticker and get a replacement,” says John Townsend, AAA Manager of Government and Public Affairs.

Using Scotch tape could be a short term solution to the problem. But as the temperature heats up towards the summer, it’s unlikely that the tape will continue to adhere to the windshield.

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