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OPINION | DRIVETIME MAHATMA: New power of licenses is revealed

by Frank Fellone | March 20, 2021 at 8:18 a.m.

Dear Mahatma: An emergency contact number can be added to an Arkansas driver's license. This has real-world use. I help the Sebastian County coroner locate next of kin in unattended deaths. A recent assignment was to find next of kin for a man who died in his apartment in Fort Smith. His driver's license had a Booneville address. I called the Booneville Police Department. The helpful agent called back to say an officer got an emergency contact off his driver's license. I called the number, left a message, and later talked with the sister of the deceased. -- T.D.

Dear T.D.: What? We have been writing this column since Hector was a pup, and have never heard of such a thing.

Naturally, we pulled out our driver's license. Ain't no emergency number there.

So we made contact with the Department of Finance and Administration, the agency which issues licenses to drivers and does about a million other things.

Yes, there is such a thing, says Scott Hardin, the department's public face and voice.

Hardin tells us that Act 590 of 2013 made possible the adding of an emergency contact to a driver's license or state identification card. We tracked down and read Act 2013, which is mostly gobbledygook, which is the nature of legislation.

The act gives folks the option of providing a number to the department at any revenue office or through the website at mydmv.arkansas.gov, under the "Getting a Driver's License or State ID" tab. Or email DriverServices@dfa.arkansas.gov. There is no cost.

An emergency contact number isn't actually on the license or ID. It's only accessed by law enforcement personnel.

What constitutes an emergency? The legislation says an emergency is when the victim of a traffic accident, natural disaster or crime is unable to independently communicate with emergency workers, and contact for next of kin is unavailable.

Hardin adds that this service is extremely helpful to law enforcement agencies in emergencies.

Dear Mahatma: I too see many cars driving without headlights at dusk and in the rain, especially dark-colored cars that are hard for older eyes to see. In the old days flashing your headlights was a sign of two things: Beware speed trap ahead, or turn on your lights. Is flashing your lights now also a gang signal? -- Sue

Dear Sue: Our own eyes remain younger than springtime. Meanwhile, you have raised three matters we are fixin' to address.

Is it somehow illegal to flash lights to warn other drivers of a speed trap? No, we have been told by lawmen. But you may be pulled over at the discretion of law enforcement officers to make sure everything's OK.

Is it a courtesy to flash lights at dusk to tell another driver that, dude, turn on those headlights? Of course. Especially since state law requires lights on in the dark and whenever windshield wipers are engaged.

Is the flashing of lights a gang signal? Aw, no.

Flash away, girl, for all the right reasons.

Fjfellone@gmail.com

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