DIP Class: A Lesson in Feeling Stupid

Think this hand position is right? Wrong!

I love learning. Except when I don’t. Yesterday was a case of the latter: a Driver Improvement Program class of eight hours and a 50-question test at the end.

The class was my choice–among three bad alternatives–allowing me to avoid conviction for a speeding ticket (and the insurance ramifications of that) for a bit of my time and effort. Learning has never been easy for me, but I don’t generally exit these experiences feeling as stupid as I did yesterday.

When I finished my test, I was absolutely the dead last of 19 students to turn it in and I was so uncertain about the answers (open book answers, some of which weren’t in the book that I could find) that I actually thought I might fail. Missing 11 is failing. One of the guys who finished ahead of me couldn’t read English.

I missed four and finished with a 92, which teacher Mickey Owens, a former high school principal with a PhD, said was about average a “C.” A lot of what I “knew” entering the class was simply wrong, some of it taught to me in high school driver’s ed class in 1964.

The ticket: This is how it begins.

I missed all six questions on the first test in the book, during class. All of them. The questions were like this (true or false, and all of them were false):

  • Vehicles equipped with anti-lock brakes can stop in a shorter distance than vehicles without ABS.
  • A safe following distance is one car length for every 10 mph you are traveling.
  • The correct tire inflation pressure is marked on the tire’s outside edge.
  • Steering wheel hand position should be 10 and 2.
  • When skidding, steer in the direction of the skid.
  • When you double your speed, your minimum stopping distance will also double.

I have had the wrong information on a lot of important details about driving all my driving life. Most of the class did–those over 20, anyway. The younger drivers seemed to know everything. They said so.

So, I sat there having to re-learn it all. Because of the test at the end (and the correct answers we put in our workbook as we went along), there was no snoozing, chatting, talking on the cell phone or playing footsie. Not a single spitball was thrown that I witnessed.

I was occasionally taken aback at sexist comments coming from both the teacher and the male students, though I didn’t note any objection from the four or five women in the class (whose spare numbers give you a clue about which gender drives worst). I was taken aback at one point–when we were learning about road rage–that the teacher said he keeps a Glock handy to take care of that eventuality. I felt at times that I was at a Trump rally.

The class cost $65 a head for those of us being punished, making for a $1,235 payday for Drive This Way, which presented the class. Of that, the DMV gets $10 a head, netting DTW $1,045, a nice eight-hour take. Owen said the AAA video accompanying the class cost $600, so, with the building and the workbooks, there was a little overhead.

The offshoot of the class is that I learned a lot that I thought I already knew. My old AA sponsor once told me that if I’d go to enough meetings, I’d learn a hell of a lot more than I imagine “just from osmosis.” I think that was the active ingredient for me yesterday. I learned some, felt stupid much of the time and am damn glad it’s over today.

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