Top 10 Things I Learned In My CA Traffic Class

As I wrote about here, this weekend I had to take an 8-hour traffic class. Here are the ten most interesting things I learned there:

1. You know those traffic cameras they use at intersections to catch people running red lights? All throughout Europe today those same type of cameras are installed on freeways to catch speeders. Pretty soon they’ll be installed on American freeways for the same purpose. They’ll be everywhere.

2. The average speed driven on a California freeway is 82-85 miles per hour.

3. Once you’ve put your new registration tags on your license plate, it’s a good idea to slice ’em up a with a razor blade. That way, if anyone tries to steal your tags (to put on their own car), they’ll get so frustrated at the way they keep breaking into little pieces they’ll kick in your windows go try and steal someone else’s.

4. The most dangerous freeway lane is the fast lane. But not because people are speeding there, but because people are forever jumping in and out of the carpool lane.

5. Forty-four percent of all traffic accidents are caused by people talking on their cell phone.

6. It’s legal for motorcycles to zoom between cars (called “lane-sharing”) when traffic is slow. Motorcycles are air-cooled, and can’t idle in traffic without overheating. They have to keep moving. (They’re also heavy, and hard to keep stopping and starting.) So as long as the traffic is moving at less than 35 m.p.h, and they don’t go over 35 m.p.h., motorcyclists are free to annoy the crap out of you by zipping by you while you’re sitting in your car wondering why your life isn’t more fun.

7. There’s only one legal way to make a right-hand turn on a red light. First, you have to stop before the crosswalk line—and stay stopped for a full five seconds. If, when you look left, you can’t see that you’re all clear to go, you have to wait there until the light turns green. It’s illegal to do what virtually everyone does, which is creep forward into the crosswalk lane until you can see the oncoming traffic from the left, and then make the turn. Even if you can plainly see there’s no one in the crosswalk, you still can’t move into it so you can see down the road far enough to safely make the turn. You have to just sit there, before the crosswalk, while everybody behind you who is also waiting to make the turn decides you need to die because for some idiot reason you refuse to move ahead and make the turn. Have fun with that.

8. Don’t keep your car registration or proof of insurance in your car. Shrink them on a photocopier, keep that copy in your wallet or purse, and keep the papers themselves at home. The reason you should never keep that stuff in your car is that when it’s parked at a big event—a concert, a football game, etc.—a thief can break into your car, snag your insurance or registration card, see where you live, grab your garage door opener, and head for your house. They know you’re going to be at the game or concert long enough for them to have plenty of time to fill their van with all your stuff.

9. The #1 cause of fatal freeway car crashes is a car suddenly cutting across multiple lanes to make an exit they saw too late. The #2 cause of fatal freeway accidents is tailgating.

10. More than any other kind of car accident, people die within five miles of their home at an intersection where someone failed to stop for a stop sign.

Bonus thing: If you’re in an accident, and the other driver refuses to show you his license, insurance, and registration info, they’re automatically guilty of obstruction of justice. Call the cops.

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  • Don McClendon

    John, very interesting. Glad it was you and not me that had to learn it the long way.

    In regard to #10. Did you hear about the Aggie that heard most car accidents happen within 5 miles of home………… he moved. I'm not sure who you Californians pick on there but here, we pick on Texas A & M Aggies.

  • Wow, good to know!! Thanks! 🙂

    Oh and haha to this – "You have to just sit there, before the crosswalk, while everybody behind you who is also waiting to make the turn decides you need to die because for some idiot reason you refuse to move ahead and make the turn. Have fun with that."

  • Don: That is an extremely excellent joke. Total crack-up. Nice!

    Jesse: Yeah, right? Who's NOT going to make that right-hand turn because they're not supposed to move into a crosswalk they can SEE is empty? People behind you would lose their minds. And that's why I've decided to get rich, buy a helicopter, and start flying everywhere. Problem solved for me!

  • Top thing I learned at my traffic school, New Year's weekend:

    Mel Blanc was allergic to carrots.

    Alameda county lets you do traffic school online, it takes about six hours, cost me $18.95, and I believe my cat could get 100% on the final exam. (Predictably, for example, the next-to-highest number was correct when high numbers were expected, the next-to-lowest number was correct when low numbers were expected.)

    The one ingenious thing they do is embed answers to trivia questions in the middle of random paragraphs somewhere in each lesson, and you have to read the whole thing in order to find that answer. So if you're thinking you'll be a wiseacre and you'll get a friend to do the online class for you, your friend has to sit and read the whole thing and take the test. That is the sort of hurdle that reminds would-be stand-ins how important it is to act with integrity, to be honest in our dealings, and to "do your own damned traffic school, jerk; I'm going to see 'Avatar.'"


  • HK

    #10: Guess it's time to move… oh, wait…

    #7: oh yes, my mom got caught on that one. Her friends tell her they now stop even LONGER than the mandated amount of stop time, just to be on the safe side.

    On the plus side, she at least enjoyed her traffic school session, as well, and learned all kinds of stuff, so at least she wasn't bored out of her skull for those 8 hours.


  • Tammy Lubbers

    Oooh – SNAP! There's the number eight for Tammy. I found that one out the hard way.

  • Stuart

    So much for living in the land of the free!

    I know some people here in Hong Kong that need to understand that just because you can vote for someone doesn't mean life is going to be fair all of a sudden.

    The making a right turn on a red light has always interested me and it seemed reasonable, and I always though the UK was a bit behind in not allowing it. However as I get older, I can see the advantage in the KISS principle of not allowing it.

  • About #4 – Maybe. But outside of LA and a few other big metro areas you won't find too many carpool lanes. The REAL reason they're dangerous is because too many Americans are goddam left lane bandits who are oblivious to the fact that they are holding up faster traffic, driving people to take the dangerous actions in number #9. Of course, they are oblivious to the smoking carnage left in their wake, blinders on, listening to their Barry Manilow tapes and letting their cruise control do all their thinking for them. When was the last time you saw a cop giving anyone a ticket for staying planted in the PASSING lane?

    Oh, and I just received a robo-photo-ticket from the Chevy Chase PD. Their laser beam clocked my car going 42 in a 35. Of course, I'm getting the ticket. Damn car won't pony up.

  • Well, if #4 ISN'T true, than our class teacher is misinformed. Which sure didn't SEEM to be the case on this stuff. And it made sense to me: drivers are forever dodging in and out of the diamond lane. And it was a class about driving in California, so …. that's what we learned about.

    Sorry to hear about your ticket!

  • Well, WHY are they dodging in and out of the diamond lane? WHO are they dodging around? Why aren't the slower drivers in the lane to the right of the diamond lane (known as the PASSING lane) not moving over to the right when someone comes up behind them? (See my comment above for the correct answer)

    Thanks for the sympathy. Thank God it's only 40 bucks and I don't have to sit through an MVA tutorial. BTW, do they ever explain how that little stalk on the left of the steering column activates the turn signals? I think that gets passed over in driver's ed.

  • People cross illegally into the lane because they want to bypass heavy traffic—or because they just realized there IS such a lane over there, and decide they want in. Drivers also jump out and back into it again as a way of passing someone they think is driving in that lane too slowly.

    People suddenly jump OUT of the carpool lane because they (too suddenly) want to exit off the freeway, or because they don't want it to take them on the freeway onto which that lane is leading. I travel frequently on a freeway with a carpool lane. That freeway (the 805 going south, for any localites) merges with another freeway (the 5 south). People driving in the 805 carpool lane see the exit merge for the 5 coming up, panic, and shoot out of that lane like banshees. Happens all the time.

    So. There's that explanation. Hope it suffices.

  • Jeez. Think I better enroll in one of those classes. Thanks.

  • That’s why I park six miles away from my house and walk the rest of the way.

  • HAR!

  • Todd Richardson

    Here is the most important lesson I can pass on:

    In the DMV handbook (CA) it says that the legal blood alcohol limit to drive is .08. This is not true!!! While technically correct if there is not an accident, once you are involved in an accident there is no legal limit. If you have one beer and are on the way home and get stopped, you will probably have a blood alcohol level of .02-.03 and will not be cited for DUI. However, if you have that same beer and while driving home have an accident you will be cited. And God bless you if you hurt or kill someone. You will be in jail for a long time. THERE IS NO LEGAL LIMIT!!!!