What I learned in traffic school

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OK, I admit it: I was bad. I needed to make a left turn at an upcoming intersection, there was a long line of cars stopped ahead of me, but the left turn lane was empty -- and the left turn arrow was green. I went for it -- crossing the double yellow lines while I was at it -- and was immediately pulled over. (Every once in a while, traffic cops in LA decide to step into the free-for-all and enforce the basic rules of the road. Needless to say, it's like shooting fish in a barrel.) Anyway, the bad news was, I got a ticket. (And not a cheap one, either.) Good news: traffic school is now ridiculously easy to complete online -- it takes about an hour -- and while speeding through my online course at 20mph over the limit, I learned, almost accidentally, one interesting thing:

How to escape from a sinking car, by the California DMV
Sinking cars are an unusual phenomenon, however, being inside when a car sinks must be one of the most frightening experiences imaginable. You may run off the road into a river or, with changing weather patterns, be swept off the road in a flash flood. By following these steps you can get yourself quickly to safety.

1. Don´t Panic
The key to getting out of a submerged car is to stay calm. Panicking will only make it harder to perform these escape techniques. As long as the keys are in the ignition of a car, the electric windows and lights should work. Even when a car sinks to the bottom of a body of water, the electrical system will still work for a while. Switch on all the car´s lights to help rescuers see where you are.

2. Unfasten your Seat Belt
If you are in the car with children, first free yourself from your seat belt, then open a window, then free the kids´ seat belts and push them out the window first.

3. Roll Down Your Window to Escape
Opening windows may make it easier to open a door. Open the window and get out of the car as soon as you can--if possible, before it starts to sink. If for some reason you cannot get the window down, wait till the car fills completely before you can open the door. If you try to open the doors too soon the water rushing in will impede your escape and could trap you. When the car is filled, the water pressure will be equal on both sides. This will allow the door to open. Before exiting, try to find a pocket of air at the top of the car and take a breath. OR use a small hammer, a Philips screwdriver or center punch, available at most hardware stores to shatter the glass. Strike the window at the bottom or a corner edge. Always try to break a side window. The windshield and back window will not break.

4. Get Out and Swim to Safety
Never sit in the car and just wait. It takes a car 2-3 minutes to sink, depending on the car. If you follow these steps, you should be able to escape the car before it starts to sink.

March 27, 2007 - 8:18am
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