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State DMV threatens license suspension over 1994 seat belt ticket

A traffic ticket about a seat belt lives on almost 21 years later.

Eileen Appel of Lynbrook brought it to our attention when a notice from the state Department of Motor Vehicles arrived. It was addressed to her daughter and began this way: "Notice of Driver License or Driving Privilege Suspension."

And it warned that suspension would occur if the $105 that's owed isn't paid soon.

Appel started making calls: To her daughter, in California, who had no memory of the ticket. To Nassau Traffic & Parking Violations Agency, where she was told payment was due by early March or her daughter's license would be suspended. To Lynbrook police, who offered the phone number for a nearby Motor Vehicles office.

She called Motor Vehicles on consecutive days, waiting 40 minutes one day, 35 the next. When no one picked up, she called us.

"I am stymied," Appel said. "It's a ticket she received in 1994 for no seat belt. She has no recollection of getting it. Of course, it's 20 years ago, she could have forgotten.

"But even if she paid it in 1994, we wouldn't have the canceled check anymore for something that old."

And one more thing: How is it possible, she asked, for New York State to suspend a driver's license issued by another state? Her daughter, Jacqueline, moved away years ago.

Let's start with the age of the traffic ticket: Is there an expiration date?

"As per DMV, there is no statute of limitations on traffic tickets," John Marks, executive director of the county's Traffic & Parking Violations Agency, said in an email. Still, he said, the agency has dismissed tickets issued before Feb. 1, 1992, in line with an Office of Court Administration guideline. The effort to close out old tickets is consistent with the agency's goals, Marks said -- "to enhance vehicular and pedestrian safety through education and enforcement" -- as well as part of the ongoing effort to keep "noncompliant drivers (suspended or revoked) off the road."

A license can be suspended, he said, "for failure to appear as directed by a Uniform Traffic Ticket" or if a fine isn't paid on time. Motor Vehicles sends a notice 30 to 35 days before the suspension is to take effect.

Jaqueline Appel found it puzzling that more than two decades had passed without any notice about the ticket. "It seems like they would have made it clear earlier that I didn't pay it," she said.

We asked the county if previous notices had been mailed. "The ticket was issued and returnable to Nassau County District Court," Marks said. "We do not know what District Court's policy was in effect at that time for additional outreach." The court had jurisdiction before the traffic agency was created.

"I honestly couldn't tell you if I got the ticket or I paid the ticket. But I feel like if I got it, I would have paid it," Jacqueline Appel said last week. "My mom said it's more likely that I paid it. I was teaching at the time. It's not like I was trying to get myself thrown in jail for a seat belt violation."

As for how the process applies to an out-of-state license: Motor Vehicles didn't offer a direct answer. "All DMV can do is process the ticket information when we receive it," spokeswoman Jackie McGinnis said in an email. "Receiving late scofflaw tickets like the one you referenced is very rare. It is my understanding, however, that we recently received a large number of scofflaw tickets from Nassau County."

Marks said pursuit of old tickets is not a new endeavor and that the number of license suspension requests has not had a sudden growth spurt. "In most weeks, we request between 1,000 and 1,500 suspensions and that amount hasn't changed over the past year," he said.

Nassau has asked Motor Vehicles to suspend 546,976 licenses, Marks said, 159,164 of which remain suspended. More than 18,000 suspensions issued between July 1 and Dec. 31 remain in effect, he said, as do almost 15,000 issued in the previous six months.



Streetlight knocked out in 2012 is finally fixed


We continue to catch up with streetlights that have been out since superstorm Sandy. Here's one that the October 2012 storm knocked out near Half Hollow Hills East High School in Dix Hills.

A new pole was installed after the storm, Rosario Cassata of Dix Hills told us, and a streetlight was added three months ago.

But still, no light: "We are still in the dark after all these months since the storm." The location is near a corner across from the high school, on Farmview Drive a few feet from the corner with Vanderbilt Parkway. Cassata said the block is commonly used for parking during after-school activities.

He had made calls to Huntington Town and the utilities but couldn't get a commitment that the work would be completed. So he contacted us.

We started by asking Huntington Town about the status of the streetlight. A few days later, this email arrived:

"The street lighting division of the Town's Transportation and Traffic Safety Department tells me that PSEG has installed the new secondary wiring and the fixture will be operational this evening," town spokesman A.J. Carter said.

We immediately told Cassata, and he had even better news: The light was already shining.

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