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Traffic School Graduate

I did learn some things about traffic violations in Arizona, in particularly, the one to which I plead no contest.

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Traffic School
I survived and graduated.

Not long ago, I received a ticket taken by photo radar for allegedly running a red light in Scottsdale.

I have nothing more to say on the matter.

In order to make any impact from the ticket (other than financial) a moot point, I signed up for Traffic School, which costs $210. It’s even more expensive online, but still less than the cost for the ticket and it removes the possibility of points getting assigned to my license.

Bad Attitude in Traffic School

Rather than lose an entire spring afternoon to traffic school, I reserved a seat in a Saturday morning class that began at the ungodly (at least to me for a weekend) hour of 7 a.m. Luckily, the class was held at a La Quinta not far from where I live and even better, a buffet breakfast was available in the lobby when I arrived. I helped myself to coffee and a chocolate chip Otis Spunkmeyer muffin, ignoring the glare from the front desk clerk. Hey, I’m a traffic criminal, don’t mess with me this early in the morning!

Nico had told me not to be late, as he had been for his Traffic School class which locked him out along with the other latecomers. I arrived a full six minutes early only to learn that the instructor wasn’t going to actually start until 7:30, after he’d signed everyone in. I wasn’t pleased with this.


Strike 1, of course, is the fact that I was actually there.

While the instructor was checking people in waaay past the 7:00 start time listed on the school’s website, I overheard him place a call on his cell to inquire about a student whose attendance was ordered by the court. It was impressive enough for me to send out another tweet:


One of the other “students” here @#trafficschool was ordered to attend by the court for doing 90

— The AZYankee (@AZYankee) April 27, 2013

I have to admit, the instructor seemed like a pretty good guy. He said he was a former state trooper, and had investigated about 800 accidents, some fatal, in addition to doing the usual traffic cop duty. Then he let someone in at 7:32! WTF, I thought to myself. As he’d clearly stated his thoughts on cell phone use during the class, I had to refrain from tweeting this one.

Fun Facts From Traffic School!

I did learn some things about traffic violations in Arizona, in particularly, the one to which I plead no contest.

  • Insurance rates in Arizona are among the highest in the nation (#5, in fact) due to the high incidence of red-light running that result in accidents.
  • Peoria’s red light fines are the highest in the state.
  • Phoenix leads the state in issuing citations for red light violations. Mesa is third, and Tucson is fourth.

The reason that so many drivers are tempted to run lights is that the grid system in many towns encourage it. You see green light after green light, and increase your speed to ensure that you aren’t stopped at a red light. In fact, by going over the speed limit, you make it extremely difficult to actually stop at an amber light and the amber lights are pretty brief here.

Also, the photo radar cameras snap the instant your car enters the area beyond the crosswalk. The instructor suggested that at the very least, we should slow down to the speed limit as we approach a green intersection so that braking is at least a possibility.

I also learned a few things about seatbelts that I’d like to pass along to libertarians who feel seat belt laws are an example of the  “nanny state” at its worst.

  • You won’t be pulled over if you aren’t wearing a belt. There has to be another reason to be stopped but cops are pretty good at finding one.
  • The instructor had been at rollover scenes where  drivers and passengers were standing about because they had worn their seatbelts.
  • He’d also been to several rollover scenes where people who were unbuckled had been thrown from the vehicle and killed. Unbuckled persons are most likely to be killed in an ejection from the car.
  • Except for two suicides, he never unbuckled a dead person from a seatbelt. Why someone intent on killing himself would buckle up is an interesting point I decided not to inquire about.

Did you know that when you drive past a school that’s in session, you only have to maintain that very low speed until you pass the crosswalk? Many of us, myself included, thought it was a sign-to-sign rule. You can go back to your normal speed after the crosswalk although I’ve noticed police cruisers near many schools.

By the way, looking for speeding near a school is the assignment most despised by police officers.

I learned that there is such a thing as criminal speeding.

  • Criminal speeding is when you’ve gone 21 mph over the posted speed limit on surface roads
  • On highways, criminal speeding is when you go over 85 mph
  •  The criminal speed designation is 86 mph when the speed limit is 75 mph

A few miscellaneous facts that might be handy if you get on Let’s Ask America:

  • Failing to come to a full stop at a stop sign is called a “California Roll”
  • The triangular area near freeway entrances and exits is called the Gore Area
  • I’ve never seen anyone get stopped for it but the fine for violating HOV laws is a cool $200

Because the state requires traffic school to last between four to four and a half hours, we took just one 10-minute break. Most of us went to the Circle K next door, where I couldn’t help noticing the Manager’s Special:

Breathalyze This!

I took another muffin from the La Quinta lobby to give to the lady sitting next to me, who had been complaining about how hungry she was when she saw me eating my Otis Spunkmeyer muffin.

The last part of the class centered on drunk driving, a very serious offense in Arizona. We probably have the toughest drunk driving laws in the nation. Suffice it to say that if you are arrested for a DUI, expect about eight hours in lockup. And that’s if it’s your first DUI.

I was interested to hear that the law used to require a minimum of 24 hours in lockup but the legislature changed the definition of  “a day” from 24 hours to eight. I can’t imagine why, can you?

The Breathalyzer administered roadside for DUI pullovers is not the determining factor on your state of drunkeness. The official drunk score comes from a bloodtest given at the police station. Breathalyzers indicate if there is impairment to the slightest degree, and that is something that a driver can be charged with, even if his or her blood alcohol level is below the state standard for legally drunk.

My advice is, just keep it to one drink or none if you’re going to drive. It’s just not worth it.

And slow down at those amber lights.

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Ruth Ann Monti is a writer for all things webby. She lives in sunny Scottsdale, AZ with her son.

2 replies on “Traffic School Graduate”

Hi Julia. Yes, this experience (my second) did make me a more careful driver which I suppose means safer. I don’t even try to get through amber lights anymore. I leave earlier for appointments and try to not be in a rush. The free muffin did help, too.

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