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You're Always a Freshman at Traffic School

Metropolis / Passing Through

January 09, 2005|MARK EDWARD HARRIS

Did you know that air bags have revised the proper steering-wheel hand positions? Or that the right-of-way on mountain roads now goes to the uphill driver? Safe driving is no laughing matter, but instructor Brian Laughlin, a nine-year veteran, uses humor to convey the latest word in traffic law and lifesaving information to his captive audiences at the Beverly Hills location of the Comedy Traffic School. Along with tricky updates from the DMV handbook, he also offers brush-ups on this perennial stumper: Etiquette at an intersection is not guided by "might makes right."

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Brian Laughlin

40, Comedian/Instructor

Los Angeles

How does traffic school compare with stand-up comedy?

I've done The Comedy Store up on Sunset Boulevard but I prefer a sober crowd.

What's the most hilarious traffic violation and why?

The red light tickets when people are on their telephones kill me.

Do people regress to high school?

Yes. The A students sit in the front and take notes. The F students sit in the back. They don't think I know their little phones have video games.

How do you enforce discipline?

I gotta little something extra, "Road to Disaster" from NBC. It's 45 minutes long and it's just torturous.

Weirdest episode in class?

I've had people get out of their chairs and do yoga stretches. I've had a Jeff Spicoli/Mr. Hand situation where somebody delivers a pizza. I've had people bring their dogs. "It's Beverly Hills, darlin.' I don't go anywhere without Poofy!"

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Zoe Potkin

18, Student

Los Angeles

What are you in for?

What happened was, I was driving my best friend, her little sister and her friend. We were kind of lost. We were on Van Nuys Boulevard. Somebody went to turn onto the freeway and hit us. Our car flipped. We were suspended upside down.

How did you get here?

I was 17 and this was within my six-month provisional period, where you are not supposed to have anyone in your vehicle under the age of 25.

What did you learn today?

There were things I was totally wrong about, such as what do you do when hydroplaning. We just had this problem in my physics class. I totally thought that when you're hydroplaning you should pump your brakes, but you're not supposed to do that.

Do you go to drive-thru restaurants and eat while driving?

No!

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Michael Boretz

30, Assistant to Producer

West Hollywood

What are you in for?

I was doing 60 mph on Wilshire. I was late. I was tooling to meet my boss and get him to a location.

Are you a chronic speeder?

Funnily enough, I was going back to my boss' house a couple of days later, thinking, "Oh, this is where I got the ticket." I looked in my rearview mirror and there's the same cop. He said he got me at 53.

Would you call that a speed trap?

Two or three days after that I was doing 30 mph in this area and this kid in a Mustang pulled up, revved his engine and went through one light really fast. The same cop pulled him over.

Have you learned your lesson?

I took traffic school 17 months ago, and I drove out of the parking lot very slow, watching everything. That lasted a couple of days. Then you start speeding and tailgating.

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Michael Ingram

45, FedEx Driver

Hawthorne

What are you in for?

Speeding on the 105.

Did you deserve the ticket?

I didn't think so. I had my truck on cruise control, but it was a downhill grade.

What is your Achilles' heel?

I don't have one. I'm a good driver.

Were you shocked by the videos?

No. FedEx sent us to truck-driving school. We're very careful. We have a four-second distance rule. In the rain we double it.

Which drivers are not careful?

Up in the truck I see the outrageous things drivers do. Putting on makeup, reading a book while driving--we're talking novels sitting on the steering wheel. One guy had his coffee in his lap and was talking on his cell while looking through his briefcase on the passenger seat.

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