Catching a green light at traffic school

Back in August, in an event that lives in perpetuity in Blogatory, I was issued a citation for driving 50 mph in a zone marked 35. This was near Rancho Drive and Washington Boulevard, an area of emphasis for Metro officers because that particular stretch of roadway is comparatively unsafe. Compared to my driveway, I guess, as any Las Vegas street with a posted speed limit higher than “school zone” is inherently unsafe.

Anyway, the whole episode turned into … well, an episode, as I was given a monthlong runaround by the City of Las Vegas that resulted in – no joke here – my case going to bench warrant even as I attempted to pay the fine on the date assigned by the arresting officer. I was turned back that day and told to return whenever City of Las Vegas officials tracked down my paperwork. Even the DMV (of course!) got involved by sending me two notices that my license would be suspended if I didn’t clear up my warrant, which I verified was sent in err. It took only five phone calls to clear up that mess, but I still have a pile of paperwork from the city and DMV informing me that I would be issued a warrant for failure to appear.

Finally, I paid the fine on Oct. 10. Even that process was maddening, as the printer belching my receipt went out of service just as my document was to be torn from the spool. But the good news here is, I was offered a session at the Las Vegas Municipal traffic school to clear my record.

On Thursday afternoon, I ventured to the Regional Justice Center on 200 Lewis Ave. to clear my heretofore spotless driving record at the bargain-basement cost of $35. The classrooms for such educational sessions are on the fourth floor, and mine was Classroom 1. A group of nineteen infringers were on hand, properly seated in schoolroom desks with nicely padded chairs. In the corner sat a 37-inch Sony Trinitron TV – our key to freedom – next to a wood podium bearing the City of Las Vegas crest, which looks a lot a depiction of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude in the summer. And, next to that, an entertainment center housing a VCR that someone in the controller’s office probably picked up at a yard sale.

At 5:10, just 10 minutes late, a woman walked in carrying a VHS tape. She tells us that at the end of the movie, she will return to have us sign a sheet to confirm our attendance. Then she slipped the movie into the player and walked out, leaving us to text or nap. But I did pay attention. The first film was a three-part refresher course in common sense: buckle up, don’t drive drunk or impaired, don’t drive faster than the posted speed limit (only the last reminder applied to Johnny “Turbo” Kats).

Interestingly, the first segment was a painstaking reconstruction of the crash that killed Princess Diana. Over and over, we were shown (via computer-graphic simulation) how she was violently thrown forward into the back of the passenger’s-side front seat of her limo. We were reminded that this wealthy and heavily protected woman, for whom millions was spent to keep safe, died simply because she did not fasten her seat belt.

Oh, and because the driver of her limo blew a .24, or thereabouts, and because he was swerving at 70 mph through a tunnel full of concrete pillars. Curiously, nobody else killed or injured in that crash was mentioned – no Henri Paul or Dodi Fayed. Only Princess Di’s plight would force us to remember to buckle up.

The second film’s message was: “Don’t drive mad!” Its focus was to remind drivers that, hey, sometimes a lane change is just a lane change. Don’t punish your fellow drivers for acting like idiots behind the wheel, or for eating from a bag of tater tots or talking on the cell or applying makeup or performing the Hand Jive. Be patient. Obey the law. Breathe deeply, if necessary.

At the conclusion of the second film, our instructor returned to the podium to call our names. She reached mine and said, “John … I’m not even going to attempt the last name.” “Kats-a-rama!” I said, trying to inject something other than silence into the process. I signed the form indicating that I was present, then handed me a Certificate of Achievement. I kid you not – we were all given diplomas reading “(NAME) has successfully completed Traffic School Movie.” It was quite an achievement. I nearly pitched the whole project early in the first film to take a job at the mill.

As I climbed into my car to leave, I made sure to fasten the seat belt. And I noticed that, either by fate or because of my active subconscious, I was humming “Candle in the Wind.”


PL8 in my head: MEOWING on a silver Nissan Xterra. IN a seemingly unrelated development, a Mets sticker was placed on the vehicle.

Fabulous Las Vegas appears at this Web site. John Katsilometes, who also hosts Our Metropolis, a weekly issues and affairs show, each Tuesday at 6 p.m. on KUNV 91.5-FM,  can be reached at 990-7720, 812-9812 or at [email protected]

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