Normally on Sunday mornings I’m in church. Yesterday, my day started with a sobering question posed by a man I’d just met.
“If you died, who are the people who would come to your funeral; even if they knew you didn’t plan to leave them anything in your will?”
He asked us to write down their names on the back of our tent card and put our names on the front. The names I wrote down faced me the entire time I sat in the defensive driving class. Like the three other people who showed up for the class, I really didn’t want to be there. My attendance was mandated after I admitted to violating Georgia’s Move Over Law. The law, which I’d never heard of, says that if you’re driving and see a police car or rescue vehicle stopped on the side of the road, you must move over if traffic allows.
When I saw the blue lights behind me, I knew I wasn’t speeding so I wondered what I’d done. I was headed south on Interstate 75 en route to the airport; eating my Chick-fil-A nuggets and sipping my Diet Lemonade.
The officer who pulled me over told me I should have gotten over when I saw him stop another car. I hadn’t seen him, I said — probably not the best admission to make. Driving and eating is a bad habit — it wouldn’t have hurt if I had finished my meal before pulling into traffic. It seems I am always rushing somewhere.
It’s been years since I got a ticket and this one was serious. In Atlanta Municipal Court a few months later, I joined about 250 other traffic violators who had to show up on a Wednesday for an 8 a.m. court date. I’d heard the fine was costly and I definitely understood why. The last thing an officer or paramedic should have to worry about is getting hit on the side of a road while they are doing their job. I get that now.
The clerk told me I could enroll in a diversion program if I hadn’t had a traffic ticket in the last 12 months. I’d be required to take a defensive driving course and pay a $250 fine. The class would cost me an additional $75.
It was a costly, but worthwhile reminder that I should focus more on driving and less on other things while in my car. I’m one of those folks who multi tasks all the time. But when you’re driving, that’s a very bad idea. I once saw a woman taking out her rollers and fixing her hair while driving full speed around Interstate 285.
I don’t want to be the person who endangers the lives of others because I’m sending a text or applying makeup. The defensive driving class was a good reminder that I need to change my ways. Driving is a privilege that should not be taken lightly.
Here are some things our instructor reminded us of in the class:
— Georgia is 4th in the nation when it comes to deer accidents. Since this is mating season, deer are out in force. In my neck of the woods, it’s common for me to see three to four deer a week roaming around on the side of the road. If you’re driving too fast or driving distracted you’re going to hit the deer or worse, swerve off the road and hit a tree.
— If a child is 8 years old or younger, they need to be in a booster seat no matter their size. My grandson is around that age and thinks he’s too big for a booster seat. But the booster seat gives kids that age the height needed for an adult size seat belt to correctly do its job.
— Adult passengers in Georgia aren’t required to wear seat belts unless they are in the front seat (I didn’t know this). Those under 18 are required to wear a seat belt no matter where they are seated. We watched a video of emergency room doctors talking about how likely you are to have serious, life threatening injuries if you are thrown from a car. Seat belts increase your chance of surviving a crash by more than 50 percent.
— Georgia only requires older drivers to take and pass a vision test. Some states require drivers over the age of 70 to take a driving test to test reaction time, hearing, etc.
— You can get DUI in Georgia while taking certain medications if those medications impair your driving. You’re considered legally drunk in Georgia if your blood alcohol level is .08; and .02 if you are under 21. But some counties — including Gwinnett, Cobb and Clayton — have zero tolerance for alcohol in drivers under 21.
— You shouldn’t sit any closer than 10 inches from the steering wheel to avoid sustaining head and neck injuries if your airbag deploys. This is difficult for short people like me because we adjust the seat closer so our feet can reach the brake and accelerator.
— It’s never a good idea to follow another car or truck too closely; especially when visibility is decreased by rain, snow or fog. Under ride crashes pose a huge threat to drivers. Even though many tractor trailers have bars on the sides and back to prevent cars from sliding under them, sometimes those bars aren’t sturdy enough to prevent a car from doing so.
— Most drivers need to slow down. For every 10 miles per hour you go over 50 miles an hour, your risk of dying in a crash doubles.