As It Is: Is my driving better? I hope so

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By David Giuliani

Sitting in a classroom isn’t the ideal way to spend a beautiful summer day.

But because of a speeding ticket, Municipal Court mandated that I attend the defensive driving course taught by Cruz Flores on a recent Saturday.

The alternative was paying a steep fine and letting the violation go on my driving record, thus increasing my insurance rates.

Fourteen people were in the class  — 10 men and four women. According to our marching orders, we were to show up at the general services training center at Luna Community College at 9 a.m. But the location of the class had changed to the humanities building. So some of us were a little late getting there.

Judge Eddie Trujillo said the class would last four to six hours. It ended up lasting the full six, including a morning break and a noon lunch hour.

One of my classmates asked the teacher if we could get out early for good behavior. Flores said we had to cover a good amount of material to meet National Safety Council standards, so we probably wouldn’t.

Near the end of the six hours, this classmate told the teacher that he felt the class was worthwhile, as did others. I agreed.

Near the beginning of the class,  Flores had us answer 23 questions about how we drive and which things we let distract us from the job at hand. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t rate well. I was far away from being a defensive driver. Talk about a comedown.

Do I eat while I drive? Sometimes. And, yes, I have put in a CD and looked at the scenery. All of these things distract drivers, Flores told us repeatedly.

He, of course, noted that it’s illegal to drive with a .08 blood-alcohol content. But he also said lesser levels of alcohol are dangerous. Don’t drink anything before driving, he said.

One woman told the class that she planned to drink with her friends at a local bar that night. She promised she wouldn’t drink and drive, but she admitted that she didn’t know how she would get home.

Flores said it’s important to plan the return trip. That’s because once people start drinking, they lose their judgment, he said.

Another major discussion was cell phones. The state of New Mexico still allows people to gab on their phones and text while driving. Some communities, including Las Vegas, ban such activities — hands-free phones excepted.

Flores and the National Safety Council make it clear that such things are quite dangerous. Indeed, when someone is texting, that person’s driving is as bad as a drunken driver’s.

Some people say that talking on a cell phone is no worse than listening to the radio. Not true. A cell phone is worse. It takes you into a different world, apart from your driving.

Recently, we reported that a car struck 9-year-old Madison Holley on First Street. The driver was reportedly talking on a cell phone — something the police are investigating.

Just about everyone in the class was there for infractions. As I previously reported in this column, I was caught going 34 mph in a 15-mph zone on Bridge Street around 8 a.m. on a weekday. Others were in the class for reckless driving or failure to yield.

One man took the class to lower his insurance rates.

At the end of the course, we took a test. Our grades wouldn’t affect whether we met the court’s requirements. I got a 75 percent — not great, but passing.

Everyone in the class received a certificate of completion. Now, we just have to be more careful on the road.

David Giuliani is managing editor of the Las Vegas Optic. He may be reached at 425-6796 or dgiuliani@lasvegasoptic.com.