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Thursday, April 12, 2007

 

A trip to traffic school

A colleague, who asked to remain anonymous, recently received her first moving violation while driving through downtown Portland. Her crime? Cutting across two lanes of traffic while making a left turn onto SW 10th. Her punishment? A trip to the Portland Police Department's new "Share the Road Safety Class." In exchange for two hours of her time, she received a large deduction on her fine AND a certificate of completion AND a few stickers. In a post written by this blog's first guest blogger, she covers what went down in the class and the chaos that ensued in the parking lot afterwards as 150 "bad drivers" headed for home.


I had the luxury of attending the second class of a brand spanking new course dubbed the "Share the Road Safety Class" last night. The purpose of this new PPD-sponsored program is to educate first time traffic offenders on not-so-basic rules of the road so people like myself would not be slammed with large fines for small offenses...er, wait, to save lives. That's right, save lives.

To be honest, I didn't expect such a large turnout. Over 120 people mooshed into seats in a lecture hall at Legacy Emanuel Hospital. The trauma nurse left in charge apologized for the crowd. Apparently, they had only expected about 50 or so people to come to the monthly class, but either the cops have been overly zealous or the class is already proving useful. They still guessed better than I had; visions of an old high school class with seats from middle school had been buzzing in my head for weeks, but alas, I was disappointed.

Behind me a group of 20-somethings lamented over one particular intersection down by OMSI, where each of them had been given a $97 ticket for blazing through a stop sign on a bike. Slowly, more and more people nodded in assent and said that they too had been stopped down there. Since I had been pulled over a) in a car and b) for something completely different, I kept my mouth shut and simply hoped they wouldn't find out I had ever set foot behind the wheel and turn on me. Despite their hubbub, towards the back of the class, a Tri-Met employee, who had also been ticketed, asked if cops ever bothered to pull over bicyclists. 2/3 of the class raised their hands and made it clear to him that, yes, plenty of bike offenders get pulled over these days.

Amazingly, I not only got out of the class alive and with minimal snark pointed my way (it was actually afterwards that my life was in danger) but it was pretty enjoyable. We can thank a young lawyer – who's name completely escapes me and Google fails to find – for coming up with the idea and saving me $67 and a spotless driving record in exchange for a $30 registration fee and two hours of my evening. The majority of the class was pretty dull - the organizers admitted to and, in the end, apologized for some redundancy. Surprisingly, we received no apology from the trauma nurse who "accidentally" cut to the most gruesome photo in a slide show with no warning. He simply said, "Oops." 20 seconds later, he returned to the image and, with a sheepish grin, gave us a belated warning.




The guest speakers kept things moving at a fast pace with video clips and slides showing humorous ways that people break the rules. One clip showed a girl getting caught on a speed camera leaning over into her passenger seat to give her dog a smooch. In another clip, a guy ran across an intersection against the light with a coffee cup in hand. Another had a dude on a bike ride through a stop sign doing the nonchalant "no hands" pedal.

That's not to say there weren't any sad pics – the speakers were more than happy to show injured children. In general, they kept it on the happier "look at how nice it is when we all place nice" approach. Then they ran one last clip of a car turning right into someone with a grocery cart and breaking their arm. The final photo of the night: three adorable little boys holding a sign that read: "we share our toys so please share the road!"

It was painfully obvious that everyone was only there because they had to be. Still, by the end people were yelling out comments, laughing, and bouncing around because we were given a certificate and free stickers at the end.

Then horror struck. I had to drive home. There is no question who these people were around me – I saw them leave the parking lot. I saw them get on their bikes. And I saw WHY THE HELL THEY WERE IN THE CLASS IN THE FIRST PLACE. One hipster went by munching on an apple and riding his bike in and out of my lane. Another zipped by trying to catch him. Neither were wearing a helmet. A PT Cruiser tried to ram me off the road when she realized the lane I was moving into was the one that went onto I-5 South. In the space of four blocks I was nearly hit 3 times – a number that I usually only attain by daily driving in the downtown core over a period of weeks. These hipsters...these people...THEY DIDN'T LEARN A DAMN THING!

So to all you gents and gentesses who put on the safety course, thank you. Thanks for doing it, saving me some money and saving my driving record. One little things though – you might want to suggest your students leave in waves rather than all at once.

Just a thought.

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