Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Snow Glorious Snow

On Monday morning when the snowflakes started falling, I decided that it was time to go out and get all of the food I needed to be prepared for the influx of family that are coming to our house for Thanksgiving. The lines for gas were a little long, but not terrible. I checked in with my office in the afternoon and reported on the weather in my area. About an hour later as I was leaving another store, the weather had turned and it seemed to me like this wasn't a snow is pretty much the same as rain situation. It was sticking and the traffic reports in the entire region were discouraging. Entire freeways and highways were blocked from collisions and spin outs. And the roads in my area were quickly deteriorating.

When we moved to our current home up a huge hill (at least a half mile of incline and then some leveling and then a little more incline), we didn't realize that 4 wheel drive was a prerequisite for living here. We were lucky to have such a vehicle and ended up shuttling many of our Christmas guests up our hill so they could spend the day with us. So, when we were in the market for another vehicle last year having 4x4 capabilities was high on our needs list.

Coming home on Monday, I gave the little car in front of me ample space and time to get up our hill. Sadly, he wasn't going to make it and joined about a dozen other cars parked at the bottom of the hill. My rowdy kids were fighting in the back and I threatened them to be quiet. We talked about these other vehicles. And that I needed to concentrate. I couldn't be thinking about them and the backseat drama. I passed that car and made it safely and easily up the hill and home.

Ah, the joys of having the right equipment at the right time! And the joys of being forced to take a snow break and slowing down. I haven't left the house in two days. I kind of want to get out. But then when I see the ill-equipped drivers and vehicles on the news who are sliding into each other I am grateful that I don't have to go out. Why is it that we can't drive in the snow? The Seattle Times has a great article that sums up several of the reasons. I think reasons 1 through 4 are valid. And number 5 is spot on. Our worst problems aren't lousy tires or  traction control, it's the drivers who start sliding and instead of looking at where they want to go, they focus on what not to hit and that big ditch. And where do we end up? Sliding into other cars on an otherwise empty street and going right off the road. If you are in a skid, look where you want to go and get both hands on the wheel and work to get there. Do not give up! You can still positively affect your outcome.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Law Enforcement Rant

This morning started out innocent enough checking my Facebook homepage. One of my old jr. high friends posted about getting a ticket in the mail for making an incomplete stop 2 months prior. Knowing that one city in our area is notorious for red light tickets I made a little joke about it. Come to find out I had the right city. And then a few more posts later another old friend chimes in that he accidentally ran that same red light in that same intersection and is now nervous about getting a ticket in the mail, too.

So this afternoon when I found that I needed to drive in this city, I was pretty nervous. I mean really. I'm NOT a red light runner. I have personally never gotten a ticket in the mail (though some of our driving students have). I should have nothing to worry about. So then why am I paranoid? On the freeway going to this city I saw a trooper on the side of the road. It didn't look like he had a radar, but he must have. I was driving with the flow of traffic with a nice space cushion on 3 sides of me. I checked my speed 63 in a 60. I tapped my brakes. Then I see the trooper's finger motion someone to the side of the road. Is it me? Really? For 3 over? Maybe it wasn't me. I kept driving. So did the car in the next lane. Then the trooper got in his car and actually pulled over the other car. Phew! Is that bad to be thankful it wasn't me? I was really careful after that as I was driving in the infamous traffic ticket city and the afternoon proceeded without incident.

Going home there was a lot of traffic. It would have been hard to speed...except in the carpool lane where I was. I got nervous again when I spotted a County Sheriff pull out around the car in back of me and come speeding up along side me. Again I checked my speed. This time 60 in a 60. And this guy raced by me (no lights or sirens) and weaved in and out of any cars that got in his way.

Is this for real? Our law enforcement should set a good example by also following the law. Certainly this speeding Sheriff writes traffic tickets. Yet how can he throw stones when he lives in a glass house? It reminds me of the time I literally slammed on my brakes and left tire marks on the road to keep from T-boning a city policeman who pulled out in front of me. He was turning left in front of me from a two way stop. I didn't have a stop sign was going 30 miles per hour. And the officer? It didn't phase him. I honestly don't think he even saw me. I called the police chief about that one. Though didn't offer them my services as a driving instructor, I probably should have.

Law enforcement should be pulling over reckless drivers. Not ones that go with the flow of traffic. And if NO ONE is around at a red light and you've been waiting for at least several minutes to go, is it really so bad to just go? It is if there's a red light camera.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Safe Driving Fine Arts Contest

I took this photo the other day and it reminded me of how slick roads covered with wet leaves can be. If you find yourself in this situation, reduce your speed and accelerate slowly from stopped positions. That will make it easier for your tires to grip the road. 

A Fall Driving Haiku

And it is now my pleasure 
to introduce the first annual
Safe Driving Fine Arts Contest

I've got the contest just for you
Fine art goodness and lyrics, too.
Take a photo, draw a cartoon,
Write a poem and submit it soon.

There are two rules for you to know,
Original work's the way to go,
And also have a safe driving theme.
Be artistic alone or in a team.

Contest Rules:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Traffic Court 101: What's a Motion? And Other Speaking Helps

Sometimes, listening to regular people (without any knowledge of courtroom language) trying to talk to a judge can be a bit comical. I loved watching Judge Lyon amicably prompt the people into saying the "right" things. She listens well and then makes a comment like,

Thursday, October 7, 2010

New Friends

Welcome new friends to my blog that explores my relationship to defensive driving habits and reconciling my shortcomings as a driver. As the judge said in my traffic court experience this past spring, "you have a perfect driving record!" Thats not entirely true. But it'd be cool if it was. Read on to join the driving discussion and to see some cool things our students have done.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Back Up Camera Blues

Back up cameras are fabulous tools if you use them. They should be used in conjunction with your other tools - like your sense of sight, motion, vibration, sound, etc.

Exhibit A: Check out this photo pair. The toy is behind the car and the back up camera sees it. If you look at the mirror then you see it, too. And when I say "you", I mean me. You I then get out of the car, move the toy and continue on your my way. End of story. Except it's not

Exhibit B:
One of these pedals is not like the other. 
One of these pedals is not the same...  

I have been using a back up camera for just over a year. And for the record, I mean "using" in a loose sense of the term. Meaning it's available for my use if I choose to look at it. I actually prefer to rely on what I can see by looking out the rear window rather than what the camera sees. In reality, I need to be combining what I see with what the camera sees...and since I have children and live in a neighborhood with other children then I need to also do a walk before moving the car. It's the only way to ensure clear passage. The first trike I hit last year had to be trashed. This time I only hit a pedal. Now that it's skewed, it's difficult to pedal without your foot falling off, which equates into some very interesting rides. 

Exhibit C: Rip Rider clearly behind the wheel of the car and totally invisible to the back up camera.

Lesson learned: Use all tools available. Camera + eyes/senses + proper event sequence = success backing.
Proper Event Sequence:
1. Load kids into car. 
2. Open garage door.
3. Driver walks around rear of car and gets in.

Improper sequence:
1. Load kids into car.
2. Driver gets in.
3. Open garage door.
4. Hit toy hiding from camera. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Summer 2010 Video Contest Winners

Thank you to everyone who participated in our Summer Video Contest!! We had a lot of great submissions. Congratulations to our Top Three Videos....

#3 Ashleigh Cote from Las Vegas with "Driving Safety" (with awesome claymation and farding in the car), wins $100.

#2 Jeremy Reeves from Kent in "Law and Driving" (with original music and a great crash scene), wins an iPod or $200.

#1 Walker Linna and friends from Brier with "Boxes" (with tiny briefcases and a story that grooves), wins an iPad or $500.
Thank you again everyone that participated!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Traffic Court 101: What To Do With The Discovery Letter

The discovery letter is full of information that can be of use to you when contesting a ticket. The first thing you should do is READ it. Carefully. Read the officer's sworn statement. Completely. You may find that there are errors in the report. Errors like

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"Like" Your Favorite Video

Our summer video contest has come to a close. And we need your help in choosing a winner. Please visit our Facebook page and vote for your favorite. Then tell your friends to vote, too!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Unrefined = Sad

This morning I woke up to the phone call that asked if I could fill in for a couple of lessons for another instructor, who was sick. I had 20 minutes before needing to leave the house. I pulled myself together and got there at exactly 8 am. Yes! I wasn't sure I could get there in time and ate a great breakfast of Cheetos in the car.

Both of my students had driving tests. Both had some unrefined driving skills. Both deserved to have someone work with them on perfecting their habits. Both need to come again and retest.

So why do I feel so bad? I really liked both students. I wanted them to do well. And I can't stop thinking about them. Their disappointment. But it wasn't me. I didn't "fail" them. I just judged their skills. Everyone else on the road is happy that these two will be improving their defensive driving habits. I just didn't want to be the bad guy or bearer of bad news today.

Young people, please practice your driving skills. A lot. Like at least 30 minutes a day for many months. It helps me to sleep better at night...knowing that our roads are safe and so are you.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Traffic Court 101: Discovery

I don't have very much experience with traffic tickets. I've only gotten 3 in the nearly 20 years that I have been driving. The first was when I was 19. I went to court with my dad and explained what had happened (mitigate). The judge cut the ticket in half and we went on our way. The second was a few years ago. If I knew then what I know now, I would have contested it. But I didn't and the easiest thing for me to do at the time was to just pay the fine. The third was just a few months ago. My What To Do When You Get A Ticket Helper taught me a little something about discovery. I think everyone should have a Helper.

Discovery is a magical concept to me: the formerly un-informed. And in Washington State, it works like this:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Traffic Court 101: Options If You Get A Ticket

Do you remember that post not too long ago that spoke about a little problem I have? I like to think of me picking up speed as I drive down a hill near my home as saving my brakes. Because really, who wants to replace brakes all the time? And in order for me to stay within the speed limit, my brakes need to be engaged for about .75 miles. And that's a lot.

Well, that's not what the officer who pulled me over said. And I was upset. Disappointed with myself, I know better. Upset at the officer who

Monday, June 21, 2010

Warning Sign?

This sign strikes me as very humorous. Is it a warning? Or a suggestion? And think of the worker who put it up. He must have been laughing, too...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Road Hog

I recently spent 3 days attending a conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. Driving in Utah is a unique experience. Distinct because the roadways are amazingly wide and signage is clear. But truly extraordinary because attitudes are fairly easy-going toward road hogs.
Pig feeding her piglets

Most of us live in cities where roads are narrow and addresses hard to find. Utah is so refreshingly different. 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Video Contest

Summer video contest invites teens to promote safe driving

Jun 10 2010, 8:48 AM 

Calling all teens: Defensive Driving School wants to see you put your fantastic, creative brains to work by submitting a video on how to drive safely. The summer video campaign kicks off Thursday, June 10, 2010. The Grand Prize winner will receive an iPad, the 2nd place winner will receive their choice of an iPod or $200 cash and the 3rd place winner will receive $100 cash. The videos need to be educational, but having fun with out-of-the-box thinking is strongly encouraged as well.

Here are the details:
• Submit your video on a safe-driving related topic to brett @
• Videos will be judged based on content (inclusion of facts), humor, musical element, creativity and peer votes.
• Suggested length should be between two and three minutes.
• By entering your video, you grant Defensive Driving School permission to transmit or reproduce it in any form it chooses (Website, Facebook, YouTube, etc).
• Please be sure to include your name/names and contact information including phone numbers and emails.
• Submission deadline: August 31, 2010.

This is your chance to deliver a message on safe driving that will educate the public on how to be the best drivers we can be. Defensive Driving School will not only feature the videos on our Facebook page and promote them to our thousands of students, we will also promote the three winners in the media.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Local Sighting

Monday, June 7, 2010
Southbound I-405
Unusual semi-truck sighting.

Super long and super narrow cargo.

Super cute little car attached to back wheels.

But what's he do back there?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I Admit It

I admit it. We're not perfect. And by we, I mean me. And our company. And our employees and (gasp) even our customers. And for the most part it doesn't matter. We do NON-threatening illegal activities every day. And by illegal, I mean breaking traffic laws. Laws like making complete stops and using hands-free cell phones or staying within the speed limit even if I'm driving down the steepest hill in the vicinity.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Power of Example

Our firstborn added new layers of delight to our evenings when he entered our lives. My husband and I would sit around watching him do the funniest things. The party really picked up when he learned to crawl and walk and then dance around the living room. He was really so cute.

The mood changed a little when in this mobile age I found my "supposedly napping" boy having a grand time sitting in our kitchen sink with the water running.

Friday, May 14, 2010


So, 100% of us voters believe that red light cameras are more about money than about safety. Of course our sample was small. I set it up so you could vote for more than one thing, which only I did. That's why the numbers add up to 125%. Maybe you'll vote next time around...please!

To make money
  4 (100%)
  0 (0%)
To reduce collisions
  0 (0%)
To increase the number of tickets
  1 (25%)
For Big Brother to watch you
  0 (0%)

Votes so far: 4
Poll closed 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Red Light Cameras

Are they fabulous? Or not? In full disclosure I should say that though I do not run red lights, I have been a passenger in a vehicle that ran one. This instance resulted in a crash that totaled three vehicles. We were hit sandwich style on both sides by cross traffic. There were zero injuries. And we attribute that fact to divine intervention. Back then red light cameras were non-existent. I'm fairly certain they would not have prevented this crash however. I was a teen ager and in a car with 3 other teens and we were headed to the mall. The music was pumping and the conversation lively. Roads are made with sensors now. I used to think it had everything to do with timing traffic signals. Nope...there's another purpose. Notice that a red light in the diagram below will trigger the camera to take a photo of the vehicle before it enters the intersection on red and then take a video as it crosses. Then you get a ticket in the mail...with a link to the video of your infraction.

So what's the debate all about? If it's all about safety then let's put the cameras everywhere we can! But what if it's not all about safety? What if there's more? 

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Internal Conflict

I did it. All during April I avoided my phone like the plague while I was driving. I'll admit it, though. I messed up twice. Both phone calls were to my brother. Once just a few days after beginning the challenge. We were trying to meet up and the plans kept changing. My kids wouldn't relay the right info. Or any info, really. The second time I just forgot. It was just last week. I quickly ended our 30 second conversation as soon as I realized what I'd done.

I did NOT like going without my phone. It was a constant battle. I really thought that new habits are formed after 21 days. Well, I did that. More than that. And I have not broken this habit.

I watched Oprah's distracted driving show the other night. I'm having an internal conflict. YES, texting while driving puts everyone on the road in danger. But the phone? The phone holds the same distraction level as having a conversation with someone else in the car. So I shouldn't be talking to anyone in the car, too? The effort it takes to not talk in the car distracts me. More than just taking a call.

What really bothers me is that I won't sign Oprah's distracted driving pledge. Yes, I can sign that I won't text. No problem there. But talking on the phone is another matter entirely. That's a huge commitment. Is the attitude that "it can't happen to me" really so strong? In me? Just when I didn't think so, it is.

I'm feeling the urge to set up a driving course and test my ability to talk on the phone and drive.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Deep Thoughts

If God lives inside us, like some people say, I sure hope he likes enchiladas because that's what he's getting.
This past week, my mind has been elsewhere. In the quiet moments all of my thoughts and feelings have turned to the intense emotions that envelop the bereaved. Until my son died, I didn't understand Grief. Now that we are well acquainted, we have become friends of sorts. We do everything together...laugh...cry...and long for what should have been. And just when I think I totally get it, Grief hits me upside the head in an unanticipated move.

On Friday, April 16th, Shea, the 5 year old grandson of one of our driving instructors, ran in back of his father's vehicle as it was backing out of the driveway. It struck him and he died. I have never met Shea, yet all of the emotions that surround my own son's death creep to the surface and I relive the pain of my own circumstance. I am devastated for Shea's family. Especially, his father.

My Photo

What can we do to go back in time and change something? The short answer is we can't. Our intelligence tells us what's done is done. But the heart longs for a different outcome. Reconciling the heart and mind takes time and divine help. The questions of "why?" start flooding in and are met with "how?" Our brains don't get it. When we never wanted to hurt anyone and were attentive to the driving task, how could we not control the outcome? How can I, as a driver's ed instructor, teach my students what they must do to become collision-free for life when I know that sometimes in spite of all precaution Grief knocks on unsuspecting doors every day and tragedies happen? But it's not fair! True, it's not. But that's not the point. The point is that we do our best and turn the rest over to our Creator. Simple? Yes. Easy? Not a chance.

Sweet Angel Shea, you are missed. I hope you're playing Rock Band in heaven and loving it. Say hi to my boy. He's the little guy always grinning as he unplugs your power supply.

Friday, April 23, 2010

And The Winner Is...

Amber! We will be in touch.

I placed each one of your names on an excel spreadsheet with what you did for that entry. This morning, I asked my 3 and 5 year old boys to pick a number. They picked number 10, which was Amber's for becoming a Facebook Fan. Then thinking that maybe that wasn't random enough, I went to and popped in the numbers. It came back with 5, which was Amber's from writing a blog post about this giveaway. So any way you slice it or dice it, Amber is the winner. Congratulations!!! 

True Random Number Generator  5Powered by RANDOM.ORG

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Motivation is a funny thing. Because of yesterday's post, I went to the fabric store this morning and spent 45 minutes trying to decide which one would make the cutest litter bags for my car. I'm having so much fun with them that I want to share one with someone super lucky (and diligent). And don't make any comments about the mess in my car. These litter bags are hot off the press.

Here's the skinny on how to win this giveaway:
1. Leave me a comment telling me, as the winner, which pattern you like best (photo above) or if you'd like a different color scheme that better suits you.
2. Get another two entries for each of the following you do:
3. Get five more chances to win if you blog about this giveaway and link it back to this post.
4. Leave me a comment telling me how many chances to win you earned.
5. Deadline! You have until Thursday, April 22, 2010 to enter. Winner will be announced on Friday, April 23rd.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The New Rule

When we took our stuff out of our old family car last summer, we didn't bother to shovel out the cracker crumbs or black banana peels. We just left it in all it's glory at the dealership and drove home in our very first brand new car. It was spotless. And to keep it that way, we created a new rule: no eating in the car. It seemed simple enough that even my boys (ages 5, 4, and 3 at the time) could follow it. My youngest child however, little Jocelyn, at one year of age had different plans. She was the single most contributing factor that led to the demise

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Embrace Life

I believe this is the most beautiful video I have seen on seat belts. It changes the focus from blood and guts to love of life. It's both subtle and delicate.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Reflection in the Window

Yesterday, I took my kids on an all day outing. We left about 9:30 in the morning and ended up getting home at close to one in the morning. On the way home I was tired. Really tired.

My Dad taught me years ago one of the most effective lessons ever on drowsy driving. If he was tired and rolling down the window or the radio wasn't helping, he would pull over and sleep somewhere for a while. When I was a child, the son of a close family friend was driving down a mountain pass and fell asleep at the wheel. He went off the road and was involved in a serious collision. He lost both of his legs. Another one of my parent's friends was driving on a road trip and fell asleep at the wheel. When the crash happened, her husband was ejected from the car and died. Seeing the example of my father when he is tired and knowing that crap happens when we least expect it has a way of working itself into the subconscious. I know it could happen to me.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


It's official. I have made it 3 days without using the phone while drivng. Yes!!! I can do this.

Monday, April 5, 2010


Last week, I found out that April was National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and once again, I have been struggling with what this means to me. I am constantly distracted while driving. It most often happens when my children wait until we're all loaded up to start poking their sibling and I am left as the mediator. Or when my morning routine hasn't gone as smoothly as I planned and I am left grabbing a bite to eat on the go. My favorite distraction is my cell phone. Luckily, I'm not driving a manual transmission. That would just prove to complicate things further.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Primary Offense

It is with mixed feelings that I write this post. I'm torn between what I think I should think as a driving instructor and what I actually think with regard to cell phones and driving.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


In the upcoming days and weeks, I will be fleshing out this new blog with a variety of posts on defensive driving habits and driving topics. I welcome your input and contributions here.
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