Graduating from a different kind of school

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Last Saturday, more than 300 students graduated from the University of Montevallo. About 40 students will graduate from Vincent High School on May 30.

May is and always will be synonymous with graduation.

Well I recently became a graduate as well.

This time, however, it wasn’t from high school or an institution of higher learning but instead Defensive Driving School.

A couple of months back,

I received a ticket from a Mountain Brook police officer for a minor traffic violation. I was faced with a decision.

I could either immediately plead guilty to the offense and pay the hefty fine or I could have my day in court and talk it over with a judge.

I chose the latter and when my court day finally arrived a few weeks ago, I requested and was granted Defensive Driving School.

Defensive Driving School costs $25 in Jefferson County. If the course is completed, the judge can and usually does void the previously charged offense after court costs are paid.

For me, this meant not having to face the longterm consequences of a higher rate for car insurance.

As the saying goes, &uot;Out of all things bad, come something good,&uot; and that could not be more true in this situation.

I was not excited about having to spend this past Saturday in class,

especially a driving school.

But after four rigorous hours of intensive classwork at the Homewood Library where the school was held, I feel I am a better person for it.

The class was excellent. I learned the do’s and don’ts of Driving 101 &045; what to do in a bad situation on the road and what to do to stay out of those bad situations in the first place.

The class of about 40 or so students worked through a 60-page workbook.

The instructor went through questions ranging from the fundamentals of safe driving to Alabama’s mandatory insurance laws.

Did you know that there were 41,800 traffic deaths in the United States in 2001? That works out to about 114 per day or one every 13 minutes.

Motor vehicle accidents were the leading cause of death for ages 6 to 33 years old last year.

Those are pretty staggering numbers.

If you are ever faced with an aggressive driver suffering from &uot;road rage,&uot; our instructor advised that the first thing you should do is call 911.

Then, he said, drive to the nearest police station, hospital or some other public place. Never, ever drive home.

According to the statistics, men and women are equally likely to be involved in &uot;road rage&uot; incidents.

Men are more likely to try to get the other driver out of the vehicle for a fistfight. Women, on the other hand, are much more likely to ram you with their vehicle. I did not know that.

We also watched one of those &uot;scared smart&uot; videos, like those from a high school driver’s education course.

It’s the kind of video which depicts what could happen when things go wrong behind the wheel. We knew it was going to be graphic when the first image on the TV was blood splattered across the screen.

Our instructor, rightly so, tried to teach the class that a vehicle is much more than a mode of transportation. It’s also a weapon of destruction when improperly used.

A car, he said, is a 3,000-pound missile if you’re in an accident traveling 70 miles per hour. For that matter, a semi-truck is a 20,000-pound missile.

Those examples and the many others discussed put my driving habits and those of the other students in serious perspective