Test case

Dede Katke

Photo By Robert Speer

Dede Katke, 39, loves her job, even though it can be dangerous. The cheerful brunette is a licensing and registration examiner at the Chico office of the state Department of Motor Vehicles, which means she gives driving tests, occasionally to people who hardly know how to drive. An Oroville native, she worked as a registration clerk for car dealers for 10 years before landing a field rep job at the DMV nine years ago. A few years later she took the test to be a driving examiner—"stiff competition,” she said—and passed. That was followed by weeks of intensive training. She wanted the job because it paid more, but “I sure love it now,” she says.

What are you looking for during a driving test?

My job is to evaluate the driver’s ability to drive safely. I look for scanning, reactions to potential hazards, speed, steering control—overall performance.

Ever been scared?

I’ve had to grab the wheel a couple of times and redirect the person back. I’ve never been in an accident. We’re not going to get in an accident if we can help it.

How long do the tests last?

About 15 minutes. All you have to do is pull yourself together for about 15 minutes. Buckle down and show a good drive.

How well prepared are kids today?

The local driving schools and school education programs are incredible. I can tell when someone hasn’t had training. There’s a clear difference. It’s worth the cost. And the parents are doing a great job, too. They work hard to make sure their kids understand the importance of practice.

That driving is probably the most dangerous thing they’ll do…


What’s the biggest problem you deal with?

Kids bringing in the wrong birth certificates. We need one from the county recorder or a certified copy.

You work mostly with kids. What do you think about them?

I love ’em. I see so much hope in them, and I want them to be safe. I feel like they’re my kids. I’ve had a couple get in accidents, and it really bothered me. And I had one get killed on a motorcycle; it was heartbreaking.

Any last comment?

I’m not alone. There are so many excellent examiners across the state. It’s a dangerous job, and they all deserve credit.