Traffic School

I’ve never taken my driving casually. I’ve probably accrued easily over a million miles (including a Mercedes 300E that had 380,000 miles). I’ve had 1 minor accident when I was 16, driving my aunt and uncles’ Ford LTD station wagon. A man in an old pickup ran a stop sign, and I T-Boned him. No injuries.

Even the best have been killed on public roads. Mike Hawthorn was a British driver, probably in the top 5 drivers of his day. Drove both Formula 1 and Endurance racing (won LeMans in 1955, F1 World Champion in 1958).

In 1959, he was killed in his Jaguar sedan on a British motorway on a rainy night going (according to a witness) 80 mph.

If it can happen to the best, it can certainly happen to us.

Along the way, I’ve had a few traffic tickets. I would say over my driving time maybe half a dozen or so, and all relatively minor (10 mph over).

A few years ago, I was in Washington state along State Route 14. It is a beautiful road that goes for 180 miles, from Vancouver, WA (across the river from Portland) to the Tri Cities area. All this time it follows the north side of the mighty Columbia River.

I managed to get a ticket for going 10 mph over along that stretch.

I simply paid the fine by mail and thought nothing more of it, until I learned they reported it to the CA DMV.

Then my insurance went up $300/year for 3 years.

A few weeks ago, I had a nice drive through Oregon. Although typical of many of my drives, hardly anything went according to plan. I was going to take a state highway from Grant’s Pass (along I5) to Gold Beach, but there was a huge forest fire along the way, and I was told I would be turned back. The sky in central and southern Oregon was gray with smoke.

I might add, I travel in a way that would drive many people nuts.

I never know where I will stop for the evening.

Which suits me, but on some occasions I have paid the penalty. When a famous hotel in Buffalo WY, that used to host Presidents and Western luminaries, was all full (of course the next day there was plenty of room).

Or, on this drive, I learned that the city of Astoria (at the mouth of Columbia) was having a national volleyball tournament and there wasn’t a hotel room to be had under $400. That is over my tax bracket. I wanted to see the mouth of the Columbia River.

So I drove late at night and ended up in Portland at 0100.

Where a traffic camera apparently met me the next day.

I didn’t even know it until a week or so later, when I got the ticket in the mail.

Not wanting to have this on my record, I was willing to drive the 600 miles back up and attend a traffic school.

Like California, if you have had no tickets for the last 3 years, and your offense is relatively minor (in CA most counties decree less that 20 mph over), you can attend a traffic school for a few hours and upon completion, have the record gone.

In Portland to my knowledge, there was only 1 approved school, and because of COVID they have to hold the meetings via ZOOM.

Which I had never used.

I just completed it, and I have to say, learned a few interesting things I’ll pass on.

Distance to keep behind car in front of you on the freeway:

As the instructor mentioned what was always drilled into me was “1 car length per every 10 mph“. Now it is 4 seconds. Forget the 1 car length rule – 4 seconds gives you more time to react and stop in time.

Cognitive thought and hand-held devices:

There’s 2 kinds of thought – parallel and cognitive.

With Parallel thought, you can process 2 things the same time. With Cognitive, you pick up the 2nd train of thought and the first one gets put on hold.

He gave a great example. You are watching a show on TV, and the phone rings. You pick up the phone, have your conversation, and then have no idea what happened in the interim on the TV program (we aren’t talking about using “pause” 😉 )

That is why cell phones – or texting while driving – is so dangerous. The processing of the business of driving gets put on hold.

Yellow traffic light – in Oregon the yellow light has the same legal definition as the red.


Unless you can’t.

Seems in CA the norm is to mash on the throttle when it turns yellow, although I have always stopped when I can (which is most of the time).

In Oregon, they calculated on a freeway for every hour it is closed because of an accident it is $250,000 in lost revenue to those involved.

28% of all crashes are in intersections.

When the light turns green, spend 2 seconds to scan both ways. Just a few days ago I saw some yahoo blow through a red light.

Hand position on steering wheel:

Here he told us something that I had never considered. I have always driven with the hands at 9 and 3. I think with the added control with quick maneuvers, I have avoided an accident or 2.

But if you prefer 10 and 2, if that steering wheel airbag deploys at 230 mph (someone once compared it to a 12 gauge shotgun shell firing at you minus the pellets) – if that bag deploys with your hands toward the top, you will be seriously injured.

Plus you have better control in an emergency maneuver with the hands at 9 and 3.

I had more notes, but I can’t read my own writing.

It was an hour well spent.

09-25-22 – Rereading my scribbled notes, I was able to get 2 more statistics you may find interesting.

In Oregon, 11% of the drivers you encounter on the road are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. And 25% of them have no insurance.

I never understood how legislators allowed this, particularly in CA (at least) where it is the law to have insurance. If you are stopped in CA, the officer will ask to see proof of insurance. I am sure that it is similar in Oregon.

I guess the cynic in me can understand this willful relaxation of enforcement.


In Germany, at least in the past, if you dropped your insurance the insurance company would electronically report this to their DMV, and within days your car would have a wheel lock on it. Or so I heard.



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