It is not enough
that we break the heretic. We must make him one of us. Words
to that effect, as spoken by the character OBrien to Winston
Smith in 1984. Or the off-duty cop running the Court-Community
Corrections Program Driver Improvement course I attend this past
Saturday. All eight hours worth.
I played the
part of a good Clover for an entire Saturday pretending to
agree (obligatory) with every jot and tittle of safety
drivel in order to disappear a ticket I got a few months
prior. Yes, even when you carry a V1 the finest pork-detector
on the market you are not invincible. Sometimes, its
just not your day. And then, its your turn. A guy in a big
SUV pulled out right in front of my car, forcing me to brake hard
to avoid him. Annoyed, I broke left and passed the SUV. At just
that moment, Officer Stand and Deliver happened to be coming out
of a nearby side street. He was perfectly positioned to see me exceed
the ridiculous 35 MPH speed limit (50 yards behind me, this same
stretch of road is posted 45 and of course traffic is moving closer
to 50) as I maneuvered around the obese SmooVee. He painted me with
his instant-on and though the V1 chirped furiously, it was already
too late. Fifteen minutes later, I had a piece of payin paper.
My first one in six years.
So, I went
to court because it is always worth going to court. Anything
less than a pristine DMV rap sheet and you run the risk of an adjustment
by your insurance company no matter that youve never
so much as scuffed a fender. So, fight every one. I do. And one
strategy or at least, an end run is to try to get
the judge to send you for a day of Clover Conditioning oops,
driving school upon successful completion of
which the ticket and the record of it having ever been issued
goes away. You waste a day to keep the insurance company
away. Or at least, keep their assaults on your wallet to a relative
So, on a perfectly
fine Saturday morning at 8 o clock sharp, I found myself among
17 penitents awaiting expiation of our sins at the Cardinal Criminal
Justice Academy, room 101 (well, ok, room number three but
you get the drift).
What do you
spend the next eight hours doing? If youre among the damned,
you spend it listening to a clearly bored off-duty cop go through
the mantra: Speed kills. All traffic laws, no matter how absurd
(such as coming to a complete stop at the top of a slick hill in
winter and thereby losing your momentum and becoming stuck or
worse sliding backward because theres a stop
sign at the top of the hill) must be obeyed always and every time.
All laws are necessary and righteous laws. Never exercise
judgment or initiative. Just
You know the
We were each
given a workbook of the short bus, fill-in-the-blanks variety. The
cop/instructor going over each item in agonizing because
endless detail. Some of the stuff was not idiotic
but it was idiotically obvious. Example: The following hazards
are common in rural areas when driving: Curves. Tractors. Wildlife
and livestock. Hills.
At a green
light you may go if the way is
(fill in the blank).
But the Clover
Conditioning was the part that was interesting. Among the highlights:
the class implicitly that air bags trump controlling
old Ten and Two hands-on-the-wheel sweet spot? For decades, student
drivers were told to place their hands in those positions (coinciding
with clock positions) because it was the best position for maintaining
control of the car. It still is but youre now told
to do otherwise. Eight and Four is where its at because
of the air bag thats in the steering wheel. If you keep em
at Ten and Two and the bag goes off, youre more likely to
end up with a broken wrist and burns (from the explosive inflator
in the air bag). I had to choke down the urge to ask the cop whether
it might not be, you know, safer to keep ones hands at the
old Ten and Two and thereby decrease the odds of the air
bag going off in the first place.
Our cop instructor
told at least one outright lie. Or at the least, he was grossly
misinformed. He was talking about traffic lights and yellow
signal timing. He said: Yellow lights are designed to give
you adequate time to come to an appropriate stop. Apparently,
our instructor was unaware of the fact that in numerous places all
around the country where red light-running cameras have been installed,
yellow intervals were reduced with the result being
that the driver faced the Hobsons Choice of running the light
and risking a ticket or coming to an abrupt stop and
risking being rear-ended by the car behind them. (See here,
for example.) Sometimes, its safer to clear the intersection.
But the fact is that the law and revenue
often trumps safety.
a fact Clovers should chew over a bit.
Our cop also
instructed the captives er, class that they should
answer the officers questions fully and completely
when next theyre pulled over. In other words, be sure to help
the cop obtain as much evidence toward your imminent conviction
as possible. Throw the Fifth Amendment in the woods. The Fourth
and First are already there anyway.
In fact, you
should say nothing nothing! to a cop whos
pulled you over beyond the legally required minimum: Your name.
And even that is not actually required. You may have to hand over
ID and other paperwork. You do not have to answer his questions.
Because anything you say will be used against you. A shoulder
shrug, an if you say so anything noncommittal
is what youre obligation to yourself is. Our
cop said nothing along those lines but then, we know what
team he plays for.
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[send him mail] is an automotive
columnist and author of Automotive
Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
© 2012 Eric Peters
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