In a previous rant about driving (“Driving the Point Home”), I was sure to mention that the most dangerous drivers in the northern Virginia area are those with NOVA stickers on their cars. These attendees of Northern Virginia Community College are consistently cutting me off, making illegal lane changes, running or nearly running red lights, and I’ve even witnessed one rear-end somebody before the driver tried to weasel out of it and changing her story six times.

Now, I’ve looked for some time at these NOVA stickers as a public service provided by the school. By clearly badging their students’ cars with these unmistakable logos, countless drivers such as myself can quickly and easily identify the majority of bad drivers in the area so that we may carefully watch their courses and evade their erratic behavior.

Perhaps hundreds of times I have experienced near-accidents with NOVA drivers who suddenly change lanes without looking or something similar, and often I was able to avoid this impending collision because I had already noticed they were attending that school and was paying extra attention. But today, driving in northern Virginia is a little bit more frightening than it used to be. You see, the stickers have changed.

For as long as I can remember, running all the way back into my childhood in this area, Northern Virginia Community College parking passes were about 7.6cm by 12.7cm (3x5in) with the large lettering “NOVA” spanning across. But as the fall semester of 2002 began I noticed these stickers had become much more scarce, and I was surprised to find in my investigation that this longtime bad-driver-badge had been replaced with a small, obscure, almost unnoticeable sticker.

Today, so-called “NOVA drivers” are marked only by a sticker of about 3.8cm by 5.0cm (1.5x2in) with the new yellow and green NOVA logo (visible on the bottom left of their website). In almost unreadable white-on-green lettering is the school’s new preferred abbreviation, NVCC.

Now I can understand NOVA’s desire to move past its “bad driver school” image, and I can understand a desire to adjust a parking pass which has been largely unchanged since the 1980s. That said, however, the particular change that this highbrow community college has made jeopardizes the safety of the region’s driving public. NOVA drivers are no longer easily discerned from the somewhat safer remainder of area drivers. This change flies in the face of their new slogan, “student centered, community focused.”

A community focused school would have the courtesy enough to recognize that many of their students pose a serious danger to themselves and others when they sit behind the wheels of their junky 1985 Honda Civics and tweaked out Mustangs with sound systems strong enough to shake the fur off a monkey. A community focused school would have recognized that their parking passes help protect the driving public from those dangerous students, and would therefore have considered this during their redesign process.

Now I have nothing against community colleges, nor against NOVA/NVCC particularly. In fact, seeing as how its tuition rate is about 25 percent of that at George Mason, I’m considering taking a handful of classes there to save some money and make up a couple of lost courses (long story, look into my “George Would be Pissed” rant). But in over two years of driving in this area, I can honestly say that a good 75 percent of the bad drivers I saw previous to this semester had clearly marked themselves with the NOVA parking pass.

So no, I’m not making this up. I have noticed this very clear pattern which has been backed up by various other local drivers I have discussed it with. Driving in northern Virginia is never the safest thing in the world to do, but I assure you that having marked many of the dangerous drivers with a clearly identifiable sticker was flawless genius on the part of whoever had the idea.

But by making their parking passes so amazingly obscure this year, NOVA/NVCC has made my everyday driving a bit more dangerous. I appeal to them to make their parking stickers for future semesters significantly more recognizable in the interest of public safety. I don’t ask them to revert to the longtime bland “NOVA” stickers, but something a little larger and clear than the new iterations would be greatly appreciated by the driving public of the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. Come on guys, live up to your motto.