Monday, November 17, 2008

Back to Traffic School

(Cross-posted to my other blog at

This past Saturday, Kellie and I went to take "Defensive Driving School" -- referred to lovingly in Texas as "Traffic School." I took it to get out of my photo-radar ticket in Arizona. Kellie took it with me because we will get an 8% insurance discount. For $39.95 each, it's a pretty good deal. The outfit that teaches the class is called "Comedy Guys Defensive Driving" and--just like the name implies--the classes are taught by professional comedians. They have classes all over the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Ours was held at the Spaghetti Warehouse up on US-75 in Plano, and Comedy Guys even bought lunch (and the menu choices presented a good variety too!). We plan on someday visiting the restaurant just for the food!

Texas has this racket where you can get out of one traffic violation per year by sitting through this class. And, Arizona has the same racket where you can get out of one ticket every two years. I was able to work it out where I could take the Texas class, transfer the certificate to Arizona (you need to do this in coordination with an Arizona traffic school) and I would still be able to take the class again next week if I get a ticket in Texas. Not that I plan to, mind you, but I was able to reserve that right. My total cost was about $1 less than had I actually paid the fine to Arizona (the fine would have been $171, the defensive driving class was $37 {I had a coupon} and the fee that I needed to pay the Arizona driving school to transfer the certificate {I'm sure the state of Arizona gets their cut of this as well} was $133, bringing my total out-of-pocket to $170). But I got out of the two points that would have appeared on my Texas driving record. I don't think those two points would have hurt me much (I haven't had a ticket in 13 years, knock-on-wood) but it was easy enough to make it go away. I wish they had had this plan in Michigan because my wife has had a couple of tickets over the years up there.

So, as far as rackets go, this is one I just can't complain about! Of course, the whole purpose of all of this is to give people an option where the state can still take a little bit of a fee, but the people who want to fight it won't clog up the court system, and the people who otherwise wouldn't do anything about it (or, those people in Arizona who get a photo ticket in the mail and try to wait out the process server) have a palatable option to pay it and get it over with. The defendants are happy, the driving schools are happy, and the state is happy. Everybody's happy!

Anyway, here is my review of the class:

We saw a number of safety videos that were produced by the Michigan State Police for the AAA foundation in the 70s and 80s. The first video was called "The Final Factor" and it outlines the fifteen or twenty factors that can lead to accidents. Being as it was filmed in the mid-70s, they go over important safety guidelines as avoiding changing out your 8-track cassette (factor 1) whilst driving while drowsy (factor 2) in the snow with your baby fussing in her car-seat (factor 3) mounted in the front passenger seat while some dumbass kid rides out into the middle of the street on a bicycle (The Final Factor). Can you imagine if they had cellphones back then?

There was another video about organ donation. Don't get me wrong, organ donation is important, and when I kick the bucket, any of you can have anything that still works. But the only real connection to a driving class is that there may be an organ donation sticker on your drivers license.

The teacher spent about 20 minutes detailing the speed traps in the DFW area. My wife was furiously writing these down as she drives all over the area for work.

Then came a very easy 25 question test at the end. All in all, the whole experience was not too painful, except for my bladder, I managed to drink about a gallon of iced tea that day.

So, although I am happy that the state of Arizona has let me drop this whole thing from my record, I am still less than pleased with their methods of enforcement (Robo-Cop cameras, and portable speed-radar Talivans). One question now remains: Since my ticket has gone away, does it count? Can I keep adding to my 13 year record of no tickets (or, at least no convictions)?

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