Sunday, July 3, 2011

Old Drivers in Arizona

In this morning’s paper is a picture of a big beautiful Lincoln ContSaturday Crashinental sitting in the produce aisle of our local Safeway. Somebody put the gear shift lever on D instead of R and stepped on the gas. A few people had minor injuries, but no one was seriously hurt. This is not an uncommon occurrence here in Green Valley. Not long ago a car leapt over the parking curb and destroyed the Red Box video machine in front of Walgreens--no first run movies for a few weeks.
Last month I got a ticket in Tucson for running a red light on my motorcycle. I had no idea I had broken the law until a few days later when I received pictures of myself in the mail. One of the many cameras planted around the city had captured me on video. There I was out in the middle of the intersection turning left with the traffic light above my head shining bright red.
Traffic violation pictureIn Tucson, most of the green arrows come on after the green light instead of before it. So those of us waiting to turn left against the traffic can be assured we will have an opportunity to turn left when the oncoming traffic is halted. Some lights however have a sign by them that informs “leading left turn signal” which means the left turn arrow is before the green. I’m not sure which one this particular light was and that was the problem,  hence the ticket. When the light turned red, the car ahead of me took off and the car to my side took off, so I took off as well. I wonder if they got tickets too?
I was informed that I had three options to rectify this ticket. I could pay a fine of $322, I could go to court and contest it, or I could take a defensive drivers class costing $218. By taking the class, the ticket is wiped off my record and I don’t pay the fine. There were two options for taking the class. The first, I could drive to Tucson and attend a half day session with other law breakers or I could take it on-line at my own pace and in the privacy of my own home. I chose the on-line option--big mistake.
The information in general is repetitive and boring and does not have the older driver in mind. It specifically targets younger drivers who talk on cell phones, carry babies around the wrong way in car seats and ingest lots of legal and illegal substances while driving. I did learn a few things from the course like not pumping the brakes in a skid with an Anti-lock Braking System. It took me the better part of a week to get through all the material. I could have been done in half a day.
My strategy for taking the course was to carefully read all the material with the hope of recognizing the correct answer on the multiple choice test at the end. The course had 5 sections and after each one was a 5 question quiz. Throughout the text were randomly planted pictures of objects that were totally unrelated to the defensive driving course material.The quizzes contained detailed questions about these pictures.I think the testers were making sure I was actually reading the material and not cheating somehow. 
I flunked the first 3 quizzes, all for the same reason, I ran out of time. While I was in the middle of reading question 4, time ran out. Thankfully these tests didn’t count towards passing the course, but I was beginning to feel anxious as to whether I’d have enough time to pass the final test, which did count.
To ease my anxiety, I called the contact number for the course and talked with one of the technical “experts”. She sounded like she was about 12 years old and didn’t have a firm grip on the English language. I told her my concerns about not having enough time to pass the final test. I asked her in a variety of ways whether the final was arranged and timed in the same way as the quizzes, but she either did not understand my question or didn’t know the answer or didn’t care. I assume it was a combination of all three. She repeatedly told me all the things I would have to do if I failed to pass, including attending the class in Tucson and paying additional fees. I thought that I would get some kind of reassurance by calling for assistance, but instead my anxiety level shot way up. I really didn’t want to have to attend the class and pay additional money.
I pushed ahead with the course. I needed to speed up on the quizzes and I came up with a few of shaving off a little time. I used a mouse instead of the two finger method on my laptop pad and I increased the size of the text for ease of reading. I did some deep breathing exercises before taking the 4th quiz and to my delight, I passed,  a glimmer of hope. But on the 5th quiz the unexpected happened. My cat jumped up on the table getting in my way and breaking my concentration.. I flung him on the floor, felt bad for doing it, and flunked the quiz.
For the final test, I made sure the cat was sleeping in the other room with the door closed. I had been warned several times that once I started the final, I could not get out of it until it was over. Before starting, I was asked to verify that I was really who I said I was by answering 5 personal questions. Oh and by the way, this additional process would cost me another $15. This personal identification part happened after I clicked on, the final has started. One question was about my current bank. I couldn’t remember the answer and had to go into the bedroom and look it up. The time was ticking. In the process I woke up the cat who was sleeping in there and left the door to the room open. I found the answer, completed the personal questions and was ready to take the final, but I wasn’t sure where the cat was. But the final questions were totally easy and I had plenty of time to finish. The cat appeared on the rug in front of me where I was working and gave me this look like, what was the big deal?
These testing outfits need to design courses with us older folks in mind. There should be questions about how to avoid running down pedestrians in parking lots and how to safely back out of a parking space without having to turn your head around. And questions about golf carts and maybe one or two about what type of cushion to sit on so that you can see over the top of the steering wheel. And if you happen to smash through the front of Safeway, are you allowed a discount on the fruits and vegetables that are strewn all over the floor?

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