Lets start with a little background.
This past November a friend and myself drove through Virginia to North Carolina to meet up with some of my old college friends and hang out for a weekend. On our way through Charlotte County, VA I was pulled over for speeding. Upon seeing the cop car I looked at my speedometer and knew I was in for it as I was going 12 mph over the speed limit. However, when the officer approached my vehicle he announced I had been going 20 miles over the speed limit. I was puzzled...and so was my friend who said she too had looked at my speedometer and seen I was only going 12 miles over. So I went to court and was told that if I took a Defensive Driving course and mailed in my MVA records everything would be wiped clean.
All in all I thought it was a good deal.
After a month of searching for the 8 hour class...I discovered that not only does Maryland (or at least none of the parts I called) not have an actual class called "Defensive Driving" it doesn't have the equivalent "Drivers Improvement," listed anywhere for 8 hours...only 6. Luckily I found one place that did have an 8 hour course: Easy Method Driving School.
What I learned.
The following is a break down of everything I was told in the 8 hours I was in the small classroom. The first three hours actually hosted other students who were simply there for a Point System Conference class…then it was down to just three of us for the Driver's Improvement class. I add this to the database so that others can learn something about the rules in MD, or perhaps see what they'll be getting themselves into when they go to their mandatory Driver's Improvement class.
What do the points mean?
Points specify administration actions against a driver. The objectives of the point system are to:
- identify drivers
- change behavior
- impose sanctions
Aggressive driving leads to accidents, altercations and injury. It is defined by a combination of three offenses committed at the same time. (ie. tailgating, speeding and yelling at other drivers) One third of crash fatalities in the US are attributed to aggressive driving. In 2001 Maryland passed a new law for aggressive driving and a conviction leads to 5 points added to your license.
Causes of negligent driving
- lack of courtesy
- lack of knowledge of the law
- inability to keep pace with traffic
- resentment of authority
- decreased alertness
Suggestions to avoid aggressive driving:
- be courteous
- don't honk your horn excessively
- allow time for your trip
- don't play music loudly
Random note he put in the middle of things: It's not legal to operate a vehicle without a valid driver's license. And driver's licenses must be renewed every 5 years.
Loss of Privileges point system:
Point values are specified by MD officials, and are valid on your driving record for up to 2 years. After 2 years they will drop off your public record, but police officials will always know how many tickets or violations you've had in your lifetime. In fact, they keep your driving record up to 3 years after your death.
- 3 - 4 pts You will receive a warning letter.
- 5 - 7 pts You will be asked to attend the Points Conference Class.
- 8 pts Your driving privileges will be suspended.
- 12 pts Your license will be revoked. Your first offense will be for 6 months, the second for 12 months, the third for 18 months, and so on.
Suspended or revoked licenses can have a hearing to show cause. (Basically to explain why they shouldn't be penalized) Your license can be revoked without points being added to your record. Things that can lead to license revoking with no points are:
- failure to appear for trial
- failure to pay your fine
- violation of restrictions
- if you develop a physical disability rendering you unqualified to drive
Another random note he put in (that I found particularly irritating): Points you accrue outside your home state aren't added to your record unless they are a 12 point violation. (Sonofa..)
Highway death rate:
During the Vietnam war 546, 547 people were killed in the US by automobile accidents. In 1999 911 people in Maryland were killed by automobile accidents.
The posted speed is the maximum safe speed.
When you exceed the speed limit 1 - 9 mph over the posted limit you will receive 1 point on your license. If you exceed by 10 - 29 mph over you will receive 2 points.
Traffic control devices
Traffic control devices provide for safe movement of traffic. They are signs, lights, cameras, barriers, etc.
Different colors on signs show different meanings.
There is only one exception to obeying traffic control devices…when a uniformed officer tells you to do otherwise.
Distance between cars
- 2 second rule: When the car in front of you passes a sign count oneonethousand, twoonethousand, and if you can complete twoonethousand before you pass the sign you are good to go.
- The general rule you're taught in driver's ed is that there should be one car length between you and the car in front of you for every 10 mph.
Right of way
- uncontrolled intersection: person to the right
- 4 way stop: whomever was there first
Driving and alcohol…not so good friends
50% of automobile fatalities are alcohol related. Alcohol is responsible for more than twice the fatalities than illegal drugs…and it's legal. It's a central nervous system depressant drug. Basically it slows the brain down until it puts it to sleep.
1 beer = 1 shot of Jack Daniels = 1 glass of wine
What influences your tolerance limit?
- body weight
- if you've eaten
- males can drink more than women
- illness can increase the effects of alcohol
It takes your liver an hour to metabolize each drink you consume. It's wise to know what your limit is before you begin drinking. Charts are available that will show how many drinks for your body weight you can have and still be under the legal limit. (I discovered mine is 3 in one hour with a blood alcohol level of .05)
Implied Consent Law:
When you get your license you sign a piece of paper that basically states you give automatic consent for being pulled over and submitting to an alcohol test. People who refuse to take the Breathalyzer or submit to a blood test fall under the Per se Laws.
- test result of .08 or more: 45 days suspended license (90 days on second offense)
- test refusal: 120 days suspended license (1 year on second offense)
- intoxicated while transporting hazardous materials: 1 year suspended license (suspended for life on second offense)
- DWI (Driving While Impaired): $500 fine and/or 45 day imprisonment (each DWI adds 8 pts to your record)
- DUI (Driving Under the Influence): $1000 fine and/or 1 year imprisonment ($2000 fine and/or 2year imprisonment on second offense)
In Maryland "Driving While Intoxicated" no longer exists. In 2001 MADD lobbied to have the laws changed and the legislatures came up with a new system that is somewhat confusing. In most other states a DWI is a more severe offense than DUI, while here in MD it is a lesser offense.
- DUI = .08 blood alcohol level
- DWI = .o7 blood alcohol level
There is also a charge known as Suspicion of DWI. This is for people who have tested between .05 and .07 but are acting severely intoxicated. Usually you will be fined and locked up until you are normal again.
Stopping your vehicle
You must stop your vehicle 20ft away from a stopped school bus. You should begin applying the brakes 100ft from the stop sign or signal.
The formula for calculating your stopping time is the speed limit multiplied by the first number in the speed limit.
The formula for calculating your reaction time for stopping is the speed limit plus the first number in the speed limit.
- is a mind altering drug
- kills brain cells that will not regenerate
- can affect you for several hours after you feel high
- causes you to lose perception of everything
- you see color and hear sound
- gives abnormal physical strength
- delays pain reactions for hours
- short circuits the brain
At this point he went off on a tangent about a prisoner he counseled at a rehab clinic
who was hopped up on PCP and decided he should remove his eyeballs...so he did. There was also a story about a woman who thought if she baked her kid in the oven she would be exercising demons...he counseled her too. I'm never going to touch PCP.
Crack Cocaine aka Rock
- original form is a white powder
- you need a straw, mirror and a razor for your "cocaine kit"..maybe a rolled up $20 will work for a straw. (It disturbs me he even mentioned it.)
Heroine (pronounced Hern in Baltimore areas)
- it's made when you heat cocaine and add baking soda to it..it causes it to crystallize (should he be telling us how to make crack?)
- you smoke it so you'll need a crack pipe
- is extremely addictive
- causes an extreme high that lasts about 5 to 7 minutes, then you have a hard crash
- is generally in liquid form so you'll need a needle
- can be injected anywhere
- comes with standard needle hazards: air bubbles, AIDS, Hepatitis, etc.
Speaking of AIDS
It's blood born, it's not easy to contract AIDS. You can't get it from toilet seats and doorknobs, there has to be an exchange of fluids.
Back to drugs again: Psychedelics are sometimes known as mind expanders.
Drugs are bad, M'kay?
All of this information came from my notes of the lecture given by Mr. Joe Renehan given in the order he gave them to us. I have no idea how accurate he is, but as he is a certified Instructor with a three-inch thick notebook of certified papers, I’m willing to take his word for all of this stuff. Still, I found it disturbing that he instructed us in how to make crack…
Apparently I was wrong in assuming this man knew what he was talking about just because he had once been a rehab counselor.
I took a mandatory 3-hour course from Easy Method (got my MD license at age 20) and they told me lots of things that weren't true about drugs...for instance, that LSD was invented by Nazis and tested on death camp prisoners (it was actually invented in Switzerland after WWII). As for what they told you: Marijuana does not kill brain cells, Heroin is sold in powder form and cooked into a liquid. You can do blow without a "cocaine kit." All in all, my conclusion is that Easy Method don't know what they're talking about. But I wanted my certificate (no certificate, no license) so I kept my big mouth shut at the time.