Lessons learned…

Chris M. shared one of those rare, uplifting messages on Facebook the other day. It was the story of a police officer who ticketed a teenager for doing 100mph in a 65mph zone. (That’s 160 in a 105 for anyone on the metric system.)

Long story short, the officer wrote out a lengthy, fatherly note on the ticket pointing out the usual details—the very real risk of homicide or death, the horrors and sadness of telling parents their kid is dead, and a wish that paying off the fine was sufficiently punitive to be memorable.

I sat down here to share my own story about getting the pinch for doing 97 in a 55 on a quiet, forgettable stretch of highway in southeastern Kansas back in 1995. Because I can still vividly replay it in my mind. Including the bullshit, 80-in-a-55 I caught 28 minutes later on the other side of Gas, Kansas, while the third car back behind grandma doing 54 in a Dodge K Car.

The two fines combined were a whopping $255, and made paying for that semester at community college a challenge. They were also tickets #3 and #4 in a rolling 12-month period, meaning there was a very real chance of losing my license.

My biggest fear—as a lead-footed teenager who grew up hearing about how dad and his buddies built hot rods and raced the local cops down Main Street for beers every Friday night—wasn’t killing or being killed. It wasn’t the pain my own death would inflict on my family. It wasn’t even really the fines—$255 was at least three months’ gas money back in those days—it was getting caught.

It’s amazing to think I could even GET speeding tickets in the POS, 130 horsepower, 1988 Pontiac Grand Prix I had at the time, but in the end, all the threats, warnings, and punishments did was drive me to buy the most expensive radar detector I could afford and make sure I wasn’t the first sucker, I mean, car on the road.

My last radar detector was stolen along with my radio, amp, subs, and CDs almost 20 years ago. I haven’t needed one since. #adulting #virtuesignaling #amirite

I see the merit in slowing down, trying to connect and reason with people in these situations—and, for the record, I applaud this officer caring enough to speak up, truly—but I can’t help but think the invincibility of youth isn’t exactly receptive to being told “don’t do things you enjoy because bad things might happen”.

Besides, society tells us getting caught is the worst thing that can happen.

You know what might be more effective at reducing teen speeding?

If society allowed police officers to send kids like that to a special, Saturday program at the skidpad, where they turn on the lights and sirens, get a hands-on understanding of how quickly—and severely—a vehicle can go wildly out of control, and maybe have a life-sized dummy jump out in front of them unexpectedly to give them a taste of what “OH SHIT” feels like in a safe, controlled environment.

You know, if society wasn’t speeding along at break-neck, quarterly profit speed and had time for changing root causes. In the meantime, I’d encourage any parent worried about their children’s driving habits—and anyone wanting to really open up the taps and get a feel for what a vehicle can actually do, for that matter—to google “high performance driving school” and find a program near you.

Or just check out the nearest autocross/autox event. If there’s anything better than learning how to control a car at its limits—it’s finding a place where you can safely explore those limits while you do.

There are places for speeding. [ Open ] public highways aren’t one of them.

Get caught being awesome—not stupid.

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  1. It’s funny, a lead-foot teen driving experience that ended with a (technically the other guy’s fault, but speeding so they threw it at me) wreck had me ordered to just such a skid pan and track course at Bondurant…thus solidifying my lifelong obsession with vehicles. While that and subsequent courses did keep me within 5mph of the posted limits most of the time, it also taught me I could take turns within 5mph of the posted limits most of the time. 😀

    Absolutely yes, not just because “positive reinforcement,” but also because driver training stateside is woefully inadequate. I mean, if the schools are teaching sex ed because they think (often correctly) that the parents don’t have time when why not proper driver’s ed?

    • Education, in general, in the States is inadequate. Because it’s not designed to train children for civics and success—it’s meant to train factory workers.

      STEM is one thing, but just imagine the long term benefit to society if high school students graduated with a mastery of personal finance and compound interest instead of dabbling in trigonometry and calculus. Part of me wants to get angry progressive here and say something about how modern civilization is a house of cards built on debt, but it’s probably just a matter of simple convenience and trying to make a public education system that is all things to all people.

      But yeah. People do incredible things. When they feel incredible.

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