Friday, August 31, 2007

What I learned in Traffic School

I was tempted to leave this blank.

I won't say I didn't learn anything in Traffic School . . . but nearly. I was expecting more. As many of you less-than-saintly people know, Traffic School is the way to get a traffic ticket removed from your insurance record - a very worthwhile goal. Since I had to be there anyway, I thought, "Here's a chance to really be reminded of all those important rules of the road and to be inspired to be a more noble driver." It was more like detention. I will grudgingly admit that I did learn a few little tiny lessons and I will share those with you in a moment. First, let's go to the beginning of the whole sordid story.

You have to understand that I have never had a moving violation in my nearly 30 years of driving. Earlier this year, I arrived at the Orange County airport along with my wife to pick up my parents for a weekend visit. I had just hopped out of my car to help my parents load their bags when I found myself surrounded by two very serious police officers, hands on their guns. I had no idea what was going on. One officer fended off my wife who was attempting to come to me. My crime? Driving at about 2 mph through a red light at a pedestrian crosswalk. You have to hand it to those vigilant O.C. crime fighters. They know how to keep dangerous criminals in check! After the usual rigmarole I found myself the proud possessor of a $200 ticket. Of course, if one is trying to impress the parents, this is not the way to do it.

I arrived at Traffic School shortly after 7 AM on a Saturday morning (ugh!) to find hundreds of other delinquents like myself lining up to go through an airport-style security check at the local court house. This took a long time. We were then split into groups of about 100 law-breakers each and crammed into the tightly packed galleries of the court rooms. We then literally spent the first hour of the class just filling out some inane form. This is because in any large group there are quite a few people who ... what shall we say? ... lack brain power and they must be walked through every jot and tittle on the page. Excruciating! After that, the teacher, who was really trying hard to be nice, regaled us with numerous personal stories, including his time with the Peace Corps in Kenya. I'm a better driver for it, I'm sure. There was also a very important short film staring Goofy. At this point I did learn an important lesson: one should not put one's giant cartoon foot out into a busy road because speeding cars will leave tire marks on your foot.

OK, seriously, "What did I learn at Traffic School?" I did learn 3 things.

First, your seat belt may save your life but it is also quite dangerous. In high speed accidents, people have been decapitated by their seat belts. The lap belt should be worn as low down as possible around the hips (not the waist) and it would be good to have a fuzzy pad on the shoulder belt up around the neck area. It should lay flat and snug against the body.

Second, I learned why people drive too fast on the freeway. Can you guess? According to NTSA, 20% drive fast because it's fun. 20% drive too fast because they are in a hurry. However, a majority, 60%, drive too fast because they are simply "going with the flow." So, next time you're pulled over just explain that you were forced to speed because of peer pressure! I am sure the officer will understand.

Thirdly, I learned the all-important rules for a school bus. As you may have noticed, those yellow monstrosities have these flashing lights and automated stop signs that swing out when the bus is dropping off it's precious cargo. Obviously, if you are right behind or next to a bus you must stop until the sign folds back in. However, did you know that you are also required to stop if you are going in the opposite direction on the other side of the road? It's true, except ... I hope you are paying attention ... if there are more than two lanes in each direction or a median strip in-between. You can now proceed with renewed confidence that you are not endangering the lives of future generations.

So, there it is: the sum total of what I learned in 7-8 hours of Traffic School. I'm sure the government considers this a good use of my time. In the fight against crime, there are those who believe that criminals should be rehabilitated. And then there those who believe they should really suffer for their indiscretions. Traffic School attempts to accomplish both at the same time. You can take my word for it.


Katherine Kehler said...

Duncan, Marvin and I both really enjoyed your Blog. You are a very entertaining writer.

Duncan Parlett said...

Thank you Katherine! I like to challenge myself to write - mostly humorous stuff. It's like a muscle. You you have to keep flexing it. However, I have found that this also a good way to develop ideas for my Toastmaster's speeches. My gifts are about "creative communication". These are two ways to express those.


Diesel said...

Welcome to!