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Runaway Bay: Don’t heed your need for speed

I’ve decided to take a driver safety course.

I’ve taken them before, once as driver training when I was in high school, just after Mr. Ford invented the Model A. I also took a defensive driving course during basic training for the U.S. Army Reserves. I didn’t volunteer. They made everyone who was 21 years old take the course in case they needed ambulance drivers. Only thing I got to drive was an army truck, a behemoth called a deuce-and-a-half.

Oh, I did get to pilot an armored personnel carrier back from the parade grounds once. It was one of those that had not burned up during the 30-minute graduation ceremony for trainees learning to be tank mechanics.

And I drove colonels around in jeeps because it is beneath the dignity of an Army officer above the rank of lieutenant to drive himself across the base.

I completed that driver safety course in basic training in 1971, so it’s probably time for a refresher. Also, the judge in Runaway Bay, Texas, a wide spot on Highway 380 west of Decatur, suggested that taking the driver safety course would reduce my speeding ticket fine from $175 to $107. If my questionable math skills are correct, that’s an economic benefit of $68 (worth about several dozen wooly buggers and a jar of salmon eggs).

The judge said I could take the course online, so I don’t have to leave the comfort of my home to accomplish the task and I don’t have to drive an army truck or a personnel carrier prone to burst into flames.

I suppose I could take my chances with a trial, but doubt that I would prevail. When the young (When did they start allowing teenagers to be law enforcement officers?) policeman asked me what I thought the speed limit through Runaway Bay was I quickly responded 70 miles per hour. Wrong.

“It changes to 55 just the other side of the bridge,” he informed me. “I timed you at 68.”

As he finished writing out my ticket he thanked me for being so courteous. Duh. I’ve never thought being rude to a police officer could be in my best interest, but had I known all my courtesy would get me was a thank you and not a “I’m just going to give you a warning today, but you need to slow down next time you come through Runaway Bay,” I might have been a bit more surly.

It’s not like I was endangering anyone. The traffic does not pick up significantly as one enters, drives through, or leaves Runaway Bay. The road is just as wide, the traffic is just as sparse and the view is just as unimpeded as it is where the speed limit reverts to 70.

I suspect this is a rural America version of an economic stimulus plan. The Great Recession has reached its tenacious tentacles into the U.S. heartland, sucking small town coffers dry as tax bases disappear and unemployment soars. Speed traps, always a source of ready revenue, may now become the most viable means of refreshing small town budget shortfalls.

I suppose I should be somewhat mollified that my fine will be used to prop up a small town economy. I’m not. I admit to speeding. I’m just not convinced that a lower limit is necessary at that particular place.

I also admit that I simply missed seeing the 55 miles per hour sign. I was engrossed in a classic radio program available on satellite radio.

My dilemma now is how to get this driver safety course fee onto an expense report. Entertainment is not likely to fly since the policeman was the only one smiling following the embarrassing episode. Editorial might not work either, though I have gotten a column out of it. Professional development seems the best bet since I will receive some valuable training.

Just kidding.

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