Peter Funt Peter Funt, 4/13/2016 [Archive]

Stuck in Traffic (School)

By Peter Funt

PACIFIC GROVE, Calif. — I didn't laugh when the cop pulled me over for rolling through a stop sign on a quiet residential street, and there was nothing funny about the $265 fine. But the next step, choosing a "traffic school," was a hoot.

For those of us who wish to keep a violation from showing up on our record, the California DMV provides a handy list of 823 authorized online schools. Unfortunately, none is reviewed or ranked, so how exactly do you choose between Fast and Easy Traffic School and Ticket Dodgers Traffic School? (Trust me, these are actual names.)

What should I make of Dinosaur Traffic School, Whiz Thru Traffic School, Big Mama Traffic School or No Study Traffic School, to name just a few that sort of jumped out at me? Maybe that's the idea — having a name that jumps out, since all these "schools" are required to cover the same material.

Unlike other academic institutions, traffic schools don't seem to bother with promoting the quality of education; they're all about catchy names. I'll admit that Piece of Cake Traffic School whet my appetite, although not for eight hours at the computer. Highway Blues Traffic School struck me as rather depressing.

Dummies Traffic School had a certain appeal because I've never gotten over flunking my written test when I was 16. I had no clue what to expect from Little Saigon Traffic School.

Scattered throughout the list are a few outfits that still use tried-and-true business names. There's Fidelity, A1, Key, Able, First Choice, Horizon and, of course, Prestige. I worry this group might be better at teaching hand signals and tuning AM radios than at locating a Starbucks with GPS.

Apparently California is willing to license schools that think traffic violations are some kind of joke. How else would you explain Comedy Express Traffic School and Laughing My Ticket Off Traffic School? There's one called Comedians Teach You Online, promising "hilarious jokes, fun graphics" and, most intriguingly, "entertaining pictures." A testimonial from an anonymous driver raved, "This course was hilarious."

At Comedy Traffic School's website I learned that every student gets four free tickets to a comedy club, plus a "Jay Leno ticket giveaway every Friday." And that's not even the funniest part. The school's "Celebrity Video Host" is "TV's favorite cop, Erik Estrada." His pledge to students: "No reading required!"

Comedy Traffic School also offers an audio version of the course so motorists can (and it took me a moment to fully digest what they're proposing here): "listen in the car." Imagine a cop's reaction a cop if someone offered as an excuse for reckless driving: "Officer, I'm a student at Comedy Traffic School. I was distracted because I was laughing at a lesson about safe driving."

Not to be outdone, Romantic Comedy Traffic School features a picture of some guy taking the course on his laptop while sitting on a beach. "Let's face it," the blurb explains, "you're really on our site because you want to have a GREAT time while you attend traffic school." Sounds like an online dating service for people who can bond over being lousy drivers.

I also stumbled across Puppy Traffic School. The website says, "We incorporate puppies and small animals in our course to help with the retention of information, concentration, and to reduce stress." I had no idea people got so emotional about driving.

I finally enrolled in Cal Online Traffic School, which at least has a normal, all-business name, but now I have my doubts. After paying $25 I was asked to answer this security question: "What was the name of the person who gave you your first kiss?"

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Peter Funt can be reached at www.CandidCamera.com

Peter Funt is a writer and speaker. His book, "Cautiously Optimistic," is available at Amazon.com and CandidCamera.com.©2016 Peter Funt. Columns distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate.

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