Driver Re-Education

Written By: sherridaley - • •

If this country were run by the DMV, things would shape up in no time.


You know this if you have ever tried to argue with the rules and regulations set by the state with regard to auto registration, licensing, emissions inspections – or if you have recently tried to get away with not paying an out-of-state traffic violation.


The people at the DMV have been specially selected to listen to your excuses with the same interest level and facial expression of a stray dog eating out of your garbage can, except the people at the DMV make better eye contact.  These people cannot be reached by telephone.  In order to ask important questions, you are required to stand in long lines in an ugly building in a bad neighborhood. People will do anything to avoid a visit to the DMV.


Most people have mastered the art of car registration and license renewal, but moving traffic violations remains an uncharted sea of bad choices.


I have learned, for instance, never to argue with a traffic cop.  TRAFFIC COPS ARE ALWAYS RIGHT.  I didn’t learn this until way too late, but that’s another story.  However, former Connecticut police officer Richard Wallace wrote a helpful little primer called An Educational Guide to Speeding Tickets, in which he says that the devices used to track your speed are often inaccurate.  Unless you broke the sound barrier, it’s possible the cop’s gear was bad or that he tagged another car.  With this mind, he claims you should be able to talk your way out of your ticket in court.


I’ve done this. Once I convinced the judge to let me do community service instead of paying the fine and I spent a couple of pleasant Saturday mornings stuffing envelopes at the public library.  This saved me $170. Once, the prosecutor offered to lower the fine to $50 and save me the couple of hours it would have taken in court.  I paid it and skated out of there before 9 o’clock in the morning. Once the prosecutor waved a hand at it and dismissed the whole thing without even telling the judge, who was sitting right there.


This is all well and good,  but here is the deal which is not explained to you in the courtroom, nor is it printed on the back of your speeding ticket: if you pay the fine without questioning it, you do not earn points.  If you take the issue to court, you get the points – and the number of points you get is determined by the judge or the prosecutor or somebody.


While I was driving home, chuckling and congratulating myself for the way I had beat the system, these tickets were fed into a computer and sent to Headquarters where a form letter was a punched out and mailed to my home.


In most situations, this computer-generated task takes a nano-second, but the DMV holds this information until you think you have gotten away with it and until it is way too late to change anything. This letter informed me that I was required to go to a four-hour “driver re-education” class which is only held on weekdays and occasional Saturdays and which would cost me $60 – more if I didn’t pay in advance.


If I didn’t get this done in 60 days, my license would be suspended, and it would cost me $100 to get it re-instated in addition to the $60.  They did take credit cards.


Which is how I ended up in driving school at 8 o’clock on a Saturday morning when I would much rather have been gardening.


Granted, I don’t have much of a sense of humor lately. The man I was seeing told me bluntly that I was boring, and when I said, gee if you feel that way, maybe we shouldn’t be seeing each other, and he said ok.  A couple of days later, I fell down the back stairs while letting the cat out and broke my foot.  So I can’t say I was approaching my re-education with a particularly good attitude, but arguing would get me nowhere. I knew that.



Statewide Driving School was located in the back of a three-story Victorian house on a side street of a neighboring town.  The front of the house was an interior decorating business run by two housewives and an Irish setter.  Several of my fellow criminals were moseying up the walk when I got there, and they didn’t look much happier than I did.


All those statistics that say most accidents are caused by males 18-25 were certainly borne out at Statewide.  There were 24 of us: 22 were guys.  There were a couple of marginally unwashed construction workers, a guy wearing full motorcycle gear, and one guy who looked like an accountant with serial-killer tendencies, but by and large we were not a scary group.  Certainly not a group that needed to be re-educated.


Our instructor was a retired schoolteacher who had written on the blackboard, in nice block letters with smiley-faces in the O’s, GOOD MORNING. MY NAME IS LEN and things went downhill from there.


It took 45 minutes to take roll.  During this time, we learned all about Len and his career and where many of us had gone to school and what we did for a living.  We waited patiently for late-comers, and about 9:30, Len started “class.”  We learned how few minutes we would gain on a 75-mile car trip if we drove over the speed limit.  Len told us that if we went 75 miles an hour instead of 55, we would not get there in an hour.  We would not go 75 miles, if we went 75 miles an hour.  He had a mathematical equation which proved that, math which I am still puzzling over, but none of us questioned this.  After this, we learned about the difference between Disneyland and Disney World, his relationship between his daughter and his now ex-son-in-law, his gall bladder operation, and the highways he took on his cross-country trip in a van with his wife and family.


At 10:45, we took a break.  A couple of guys stood around in the parking lot desultorily smoking cigarettes, some people made calls on their cell phones, and a few wild ones left in their cars to find coffee.


The guy in motorcycle leathers was ten minutes late returning from the break, but nobody, including Len, said anything to him. We all politely shifted our chairs and let him in.  This was when Len was telling us about his army days and how the world was heading to hell in a handbasket because nobody used his turn signals anymore.  This was somehow related to the odd haircuts kids-these-days were getting that signaled that the end is near.  Then we learned about how much better things were before high-rise apartment buildings and memory typewriters, and then we watched a film on the tragic outcome of drunk driving, although none of us were in for DWI.


At noon, we were handed a final exam. A few sample questions follow:


1.    Under normal traffic conditions, a good driver develops the habit of looking ahead of his vehicle a distance equal to about:

  1. 5 seconds
  2. 10 seconds
  3. 15 seconds
  4. 20-30 seconds


(This has to be a trick question.  Distance can’t be measured in seconds, can it?)


2.  Of the following vehicles, which one calls for you to leave the most extra following distance?

  1. delivery van
  2. cars
  3. school busses
  4. motorcycles


3.     Implied consent laws pertain to:

  1. motor vehicle use issues
  2. motor vehicle ownership issues   
  3. DWI arrest issues
  4. Connecticut “no-fault” insurance


(If you know the answer to this one, you will admit to having recently been stopped for DWI.)


Here some sample questions to which I would have known the answers:


1.    How long has Len been married to his wife?

  1. 40 years
  2. 50 years
  3. too long
  4. Len is single.


2.    How long did Len’s son drive on the Massachusetts Turnpike before getting stopped by the state police?

  1. 45 miles
  2. about 10 seconds
  3. the same amount of time as it takes Arlo Guthrie to sing “Alice’s Restaurant”
  4. all four years of his undergraduate study


3.    What kind of people work for AAA?

  1. idiots
  2. under-educated numbskulls who think they’re better than everybody else
  3. highly skilled technicians
  4. Asians



We all finished our tests about the same time.  Len told us that it didn’t matter what we got on the test, thank God, and we went over the questions and answers out loud.  There were 16 questions. About half way through, I asked the girl how many she got wrong, and she said, “I can tell you how many I got right.”  The guy at the end of my table said, “I just answered B on all of them.”  When we got to question #8, the man across from me asked, “There were more questions on the back?”


I asked the serial killer accountant to figure out my grade.


I got a C.


But I can drive.

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One Comment

  1. Linda Hughes says:

    I, too, have been to traffic court. This made me laugh so hard! I discovered that the third time at court when you tell the judge you’re truly sorry and will never do it again, he doesn’t believe you. Go figure.