Traffic School: What is it really all about?

5 02 2005

So you got a ticket. Now you are faced with a couple of choices: take your chances and fight the ticket, pay the fine and take the hit on the insurance, ignore the ticket (not smart) or go to traffic school. The first option, to fight the ticket is like a game of chance. You know you where guilty, we all are but if you fight it, the officer just might be too busy to show up in court. However, what are you going to do when the officer takes the stand? Yes, they will show up. Better try one of the other options.

Insurance is way too expensive already so why give them the excuse to take more of your hard earned cash. The third option is out of the question unless you really want to take an extended all expense paid vacation compete with an 8×8 foot cell of your own to share with a friendly roommate. That leaves the last option- traffic school. Well, if you are like most, you pack your bags and head off to school.

Your first task is to file your intent to attend class. This of course must be postmarked by a specific day. Along with that form you must submit an unseemly amount of cash. Now you are asked to send off to the DMV to get a copy of your driving record which you must then send into the court. This I have never understood. When the police officer that made the “arrest” (yes, it is known as an arrest) first stopped you, he typed a couple of numbers into a computer in his car and received a copy of your driving record and a list of any outstanding warrants. Since you are going to traffic school rather than jail, that list of warrants must have been very short. If the officer can have this information at beckon call, why can’t the court make the same request? So here we go, we send off to the central repository of these records with, of course, more money. A couple of weeks later, your record arrives and you forward it on to the county courthouse. This is the court house that could have pulled the records up directly.

Now that your intent to attend class and driving record has been processed, it is time to get a class. You could attend on of the courses at the “comedy driving school” or you could do it on your own over the internet or by paying Blockbuster Video a visit. In either case, it will be about $45 for the class. Rather than giving up an entire Weekend for the Saturday course (you will soon find out it is all about the time), you opt for the Blockbuster/Internet course. Thinking, this way you can control the pace of the class and not let it be such an inconvenience.

Starting the course, you immediately learn that the challenge of navigating the course is time management. When you are ready to take your first test (checkpoint), you quickly learn that you will need to pay attention to some very strange details. One of the questions is “who is the actor that threw the rubber chicken across the desk?” Now that is a question that will definitely save my life on the road. Clearly you will have to watch every moment of the video or Internet course as it is not so much about content as it is making sure you follow all the rules.

The internet course requires that you take 15 minute breaks at predefined intervals. This means that you must stop work on the course and leave the window open for the course. However, they really mean break because if you open another window while you are “resting”, time will stop and you will have to start the wait period all over again. Back to the video, you think that you might be able to watch the entire first tape then take the series of tests. No again, there is a timer that is keeping track of your time between the completion of one test and the start of the next. If the proper amount of time has not passed, you will not be allowed to test. In short, the course will definitely take you the prescribed 6 hours to complete.

So what is defensive driving really about? Rules. It is all about rules. You must obey and follow all the rules of the course. If you miss any of them, you will find yourself taking longer to complete and you may end up with an invalid score and have to record the ticket on your record. It is true that you will undoubtedly refresh some of your knowledge regarding the rules of driving. However, since you are here doing this because you have broken some rules, they are going to make sure you follow the rules of the course to the letter. So in the end, defensive driving courses are really about inconvenience, and following rules- that is the rules of the course. The pain of jumping these hurdles should serve as a deterrent for future driving infractions. Happy motoring!

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