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.