Driving Lessons in Los Angeles

By | August 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

Driving lessons are important for highway safety. But what I’m referring to are not lessons that beginners take, but lessons that drivers learn through experience. These lessons relate not only to driving, but also to many other aspects of life.

I enjoy the maximum safe-driver discount my insurance company offers. I renew my driver’s license and vehicle registration faithfully. I get smog checks when required. I carry large amounts of insurance. I check my vehicle regularly for tire condition, brake pads, lights, and other safety-related items. I try to obey traffic regulations.

But I am beginning to feel like a fool, because the only rewards the state gives me for obeying its laws are more laws to obey. In contrast, those who flout the law are often rewarded. Consider following examples, which occurred over several years – lest you think I’m a really unlucky guy.

I changed lanes on a major street, signaling and allowing enough room between me and the following vehicle. But apparently two men in the pickup thought I had “cut them off.” So they came up on my right and repeatedly swerved toward me, trying to force me across the centerline into oncoming traffic. Having already survived one head-on collision, I took a dim view of these proceedings.

I avoided the truck, which then pulled in front of me and slammed on the brakes, skidding sideways to a stop in an attempt to get me to rear-end them. But my brakes were better. When this too failed, they escaped by driving through a red light. My wife took down the license number, but we didn’t call the police. It would have been our word against theirs, and if they discovered where we lived, they might have paid us a visit.

Since they had already committed assault with a deadly weapon, I did not look forward to their visit, and I had no confidence that the police or Department of Motor Vehicles would not reveal our address. So I did nothing. My only alternative would have been to locate the driver and pay him a visit, which I rejected after serious consideration.

A car rear-ended mine while I was stopped at a red light. The driver had no insurance, though it is required by law. I was out the $500 deductible, and my insurance company was out the rest of the repair bill. The man made monthly payments to my company, but they soon stopped. I wrote the DMV, expecting them to suspend his license until he got insurance and repaid me and my insurance company – which used to be the rule.

But DMV replied that I would have to sue the other driver in Small Claims Court, get a judgment, have him default on the judgment, and then the DMV would suspend his license. That is, the state left it to me to enforce its financial responsibility law. I was expected to expend my own time and money to do their job, for which I had already paid with my taxes. This is called “government.”

An expensive sports car approached from behind at about twice the speed limit, swerved around our car with inches to spare, then sped away. We pulled up next to it at a red light, and my wife shouted, “Slow down!” The driver sprayed her face with a white substance and sped off too fast to follow without severe risk. Luckily the substance was silly string, not pepper spray, paint, or oven cleaner. Luckily her eyes were uninjured.

We phoned the police but couldn’t give a license number. So the police could do nothing. In fact, the officer told me that even if we had gotten a license number, they probably would have done nothing except advise me to file a lawsuit. By the way, this wasn’t some rural police department – it was Beverly Hills.

That is, in addition to enforcing the financial responsibility law, I also had to protect my wife by enforcing the laws against assault. But how? If I drove like a maniac, overtook the sports car, forced it to the curb, and pulled the driver out, I would be charged with assault myself.

Los Angeles issues no concealed-weapon permits to ordinary citizens, and carrying a gun in a car is illegal in California. So I was given the duty of enforcing the law and protecting my family, while at the same time being deprived of the means for doing so. We have returned to a sort of Wild West, but one where only the outlaws have guns. This is called “progress.”

A delivery van making a left turn hit my car, then drove off before I could make the turn and follow. I went to the sheriff’s station, which was only a block away, to make a report. Since I wasn’t hurt, the deputy refused to take a report. However, he gave me his card, explaining that if the other driver said it was I who hit and ran, I could use the deputy as a witness – assuming he remembered me.

The deputy went on to say I was lucky the other driver didn’t beat me up or shoot me. Recall that the accident happened one block from the sheriff’s station. This is called “law enforcement.” Again, I was out the deductible. The uninsured motorist coverage didn’t apply, because I could not identify the driver and prove he was uninsured. This is called “insurance.”

● A car rear-ended mine when I stopped for a fire truck. Almost no one yields to emergency vehicles anymore, and the few who do risk getting rear-ended. The other driver was apologetic, but spoke no English and had no insurance. I copied everything from his driver’s license, plus the plate number and a description of the primer-spotted car.

My insurance company informed me that the driver’s license was counterfeit, which is now a common occurrence. The plates were off a wrecked car. Again, I was stuck with the deductible. Again, the uninsured motorist coverage did not apply. This time I cancelled it, while chuckling about gun-control advocates who want guns to be “registered like cars.” Now there’s a brilliant idea. We can’t effectively register two-ton vehicles that operate on public roads – but we can register small objects that are easily concealed? Yeah, sure.

● Some time ago, a hit-run driver struck a kid on a bicycle, bouncing him over the hood. Amazingly the kid received only minor injuries, making the crime a misdemeanor, as if only property were damaged. A passerby got the license number, and police identified the driver. But all they did was write and ask him to come to the station. Nothing happened for three months, because the police were “too busy.”

Then something happened. The hit-run driver struck another kid on a bicycle, knocking him through the windshield and into the car. No one knows whether the kid was still alive at this point. We do know that the kid was no longer alive after the man drove 13 miles to a deserted area, then dumped the body. This time he was arrested.

After the first incident, he learned that hitting a kid on a bicycle is no worse than denting a fender. And he learned that police do not arrest drivers who flee after hitting kids. After the second incident, he was charged with murder. But who will charge the police and the DMV with teaching him these lethal lessons?

The principal contact most people have with the “justice system” concerns traffic citations or vehicle accidents. Often this experience teaches that irresponsibility is rewarded while responsibility is punished. The DMV collects taxes, but does not protect us against uninsured drivers, or even against reckless, assaultive drivers in new cars without license plates.

The police can’t arrest someone unless they know who he is, but they will not find out if they are “too busy” to investigate accidents unless someone is seriously injured. Besides, phony driver’s licenses and other documents are readily available, so even if the police show up and issue a citation, it may be to a nonexistent person at a phony address. This is called “community policing.”

It is difficult to have “community policing” if you don’t have a community.

Parking fines are profitable, so there are plenty of parking officers watching for expired meters. But police officers cost money, so there are too few to stop dangerous drivers who spray people in the face, or even to arrest drivers who knock kids off bicycles. We are revenue sources to be exploited, not citizens to be protected. We are like sheep waiting to be fleeced, but without sheepdogs to protect us. Yet if we try to protect ourselves, we will be arrested or sued.

This “system” punishes the responsible and rewards the irresponsible. It leaves important aspects of law enforcement to private citizens, while depriving them of the means to do this effectively. No wonder fewer citizens bother to vote, while many people try to settle traffic, business, or personal disputes themselves.

Do we really want the nonviolent to feel helpless, while the violent take matters into their own hands? If not, why are we teaching these lessons?

Contact: dstol@prodigy.net. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.

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