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California Department of Motor Vehicles officials posted these videos:
The agency is trying to connect with the next generation of drivers as part of a do-over: an effort to erase its old image as the fusty bureaucracy with mind-numbing waits in field offices.
DMV's Internet offerings weren't winning any viewership battles this week against more typical YouTube fare – "Very Funny Dogs, Part 1" or "How to Beat Your Boyfriend" (at video games).
But DMV officials boast that – as far as they know – they are the nation's only state motor vehicle agency reaching and teaching via YouTube.
The site is www.youtube.com/californiadmv.
Educational videos – 55 of them – touch a variety of topics for drivers of all ages, from how not to get hit by a light-rail train to maintaining control of your car if you get a flat tire.
Most, however, are aimed at prepping beginners for the behind-the-wheel driving test. Agency officials say they hope to reduce the state's 50 percent failure rate for first-time test takers.
A smattering of posted comments indicates viewers take the videos seriously.
"I take my test today! Thanks for posting these!" reads a message from 19-year-old "trooperstormy" on a video about the second most common driving test mistake – failing to yield to a vehicle that has the right of way.
Unsafe lane changes are the top reason people fail.
"Good video!" another writes.
State officials said they were seeking better ways to prepare drivers for the road.
"We asked ourselves, where are young people getting information these days?" the DMV spokesman Mike Marando said.
The answer came to Marando as he watched his teen daughter's nightly Internet peregrinations on her laptop computer.
"They are on YouTube and MySpace," he said. "People learn more visually today. They are more, 'Don't tell me. Show me.'"
The DMV's timing is right, population data show. The state is experiencing a historic teen population boom, peaking this year at more than 600,000 16-year-olds, and putting more of the riskiest drivers on the road.
DMV also recently launched its own myspace.com site where Director George Valverde answers consumer questions. The site is clunky, agency officials admit, and will be revamped. As of Tuesday, the DMV was not a high social flier – it had just 58 "friends."
The YouTube site is more popular.
The most-viewed video – 17,000 hits in four months – is a three-minute segment about people who show up for the driving test without enough practice.
It mixes video clips of young drivers behind the wheel, computer-generated street action, and interviews with DMV driving-test examiners.
The examiners talk about first-timers who panic or even freeze behind the wheel.
When one novice driver in Visalia stopped inside the marker at the train tracks, a DMV examiner recalls telling the driver: "We're going to be hit, quite frankly. We need to get out" of here.
DMV's second most popular video, a two-minute piece on sharing the road with motorcycles, has 10,000 hits. It includes a scary little simulation of a car hitting a motorcycle, sending the motorcyclist bouncing over the sidewalk and onto some grass.
Earlier this year, the DMV grouped a number of its services – including vehicle registrations – on a new online homepage with a goal of reducing waits, workload and anxiety at field offices.
"It's a natural evolution," DMV's Marando said. "We're taking advantage of technology to reach our customers."
Officials said the technological migration has yielded results: DMV field office wait times have dropped. Four years ago, 63 percent of people had to wait more than 20 minutes in field offices – and some waits stretched to two hours. Now, only 31 percent of people must wait more than 20 minutes, officials said.
DMV officials said they are pleased with the response to their videos, and hope to publicize their project more.
They get a surprised thumbs-up from Nick Hughes, 17, of Lincoln, who generally watches music videos on YouTube. He recently checked the DMV videos out because a family friend, who works for the DMV, told his parents about it.
Hughes said it wasn't as boring as he expected, so he watched another and then another. The crashing motorcyclist was even kind of funny landing on the grass, he said.
"I get bored out of my mind reading the (driver's handbook,)" Hughes said. "The videos are actually kind of entertaining. I think they were pretty smart to do it."