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12:43 PM Fri, Oct. 19th

Excuses cloud rational thinking

Driving school is not a fun place to go, especially when you have no other choice but to attend. By showing up to two four-hour sessions on weekday evenings or an eight-hour session on a Saturday, drivers can clear their speeding tickets and avoid getting points against their license.

The precondition is you haven’t attended such a school in the past two years and your tickets are minor violations.

I qualified for those two conditions, so I reluctantly attended the school, even though I did feel I was a victim of the police’s abuse of power and that I should not have gotten the ticket in the first place.

In early March, a highway patrol officer stopped my car on Interstate 40 just outside Williams and wrote me a ticket for driving 10 miles over the speed limit. I had been following his camouflaged police car for about four miles, and he drove at 65 mph where the speed limit is 75.

As soon as I sped up and passed him, he hit his flashers and stopped me. I complained that I was in passing mode, but he said I kept at the high speed well after passing him.

So, before walking into the classroom, I felt like a victim of entrapment by a bored highway patrol officer. The only reason I showed up was because I don’t have the time and energy to take the case to court.

Surprisingly, a lot of classmates shared my feelings. Everybody had his or her own complaints, and the entrapment theory seemed especially popular.

An elderly lady said she was followed too closely by a black sedan and tried to escape but was stopped by the sedan, a police car, when she drove 21 miles over the speed limit. Another gentleman said he was stopped by police officers and got a ticket for no reason.

Because of his busy schedule, he had chose to be there in class rather than fighting it in court.

What a coincidence. It seemed like all the innocent drivers entrapped by police had simultaneously gathered in the small room in the Powerhouse. Everyone had a complaint, and everybody agreed that all drivers deserved to be in the class.

But the teacher, a retired officer from the Department of Public Safety, was clever enough to let statistics do the talking.

After a quick survey, the statistics showed that not one person in the room had been ticketed for driving one to four miles over the speed limit; one girl got a ticket for driving 5 to 9 miles over; all the rest, about 25 people, got their tickets for driving 10 or more miles beyond the speed limit.

It showed something. Though one cannot rule out the possibility of police entrapment, it seemed more plausible that people were pulled over for legitimate reasons.

They were, myself included, speeding. That’s the reason police officers stopped them and wrote them a ticket.

From that point on, I seriously contemplated my speeding ticket. I remembered that I had driven faster in other sections of the interstate from time to time without being stopped by police officers. If my ticket from Williams was removed, I would probably deserve another ticket for speeding somewhere else.

Once again, I found an excuse to console myself. In the Pacific Northwest, namely Oregon and Washington, the commonly recognized tolerance on highway speeding is 15 mph.

In other words, if you travel less than 15 mph over the speed limit, highway patrol officers will not bother to stop you. Some police officers in Oregon even told local newspapers that they will “let it go” if drivers blew down the highway at 80 mph in a 65 mph speed zone. With this experience rooted in my head, whenever I see a speed limit sign, my brain automatically adds another 15 miles onto the speed. So to me, Arizona’s interstate speed limit is 90 mph, California’s 85 mph.

Streamlining all those speed limits together, just as the teacher did in his survey, I suddenly found similarities in my driving experiences. I realized that I had been flirting with all kinds of speed limits. Although I’m not conscious of it, going that few miles an hour more over the speed limit makes me feel good.

Bingo!

It seemed that I had finally hit on something. My immaturity and irresponsibility had made me continuously challenge that red line.

I hope rational thinking and behavior will take over in the future. A rational attitude about driving is good for myself, my family and the people driving around me.

By the time I had finished soul-searching, the sessions had come to an end. The teacher emphasized the importance of defensive driving, and everyone nodded his or her heads as a signal of agreement.

“You can leave now,” the teacher said with apparent satisfaction.

Stepping out of the classroom, the atmosphere changed. Engines revved, and everyone rushed their cars out of the parking lot like the start of a NASCAR race. What happened in the classroom seemed to have stayed in the classroom.

Receipt in hand, which proved attendance at the class, nothing but the revving engines reminded that a special gathering had happened here at the Powerhouse on a windy spring evening.