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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.

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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between Vanilla and French Vanilla Ice Cream?
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While you’re browsing the ice cream aisle, you may find yourself wondering, “What’s so French about French vanilla?” The name may sound a little fancier than just plain ol’ “vanilla,” but it has nothing to do with the origin of the vanilla itself. (Vanilla is a tropical plant that grows near the equator.)

The difference comes down to eggs, as The Kitchn explains. You may have already noticed that French vanilla ice cream tends to have a slightly yellow coloring, while plain vanilla ice cream is more white. That’s because the base of French vanilla ice cream has egg yolks added to it.

The eggs give French vanilla ice cream both a smoother consistency and that subtle yellow color. The taste is a little richer and a little more complex than a regular vanilla, which is made with just milk and cream and is sometimes called “Philadelphia-style vanilla” ice cream.

In an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered in 2010—when Baskin-Robbins decided to eliminate French Vanilla from its ice cream lineup—ice cream industry consultant Bruce Tharp noted that French vanilla ice cream may date back to at least colonial times, when Thomas Jefferson and George Washington both used ice cream recipes that included egg yolks.

Jefferson likely acquired his taste for ice cream during the time he spent in France, and served it to his White House guests several times. His family’s ice cream recipe—which calls for six egg yolks per quart of cream—seems to have originated with his French butler.

But everyone already knew to trust the French with their dairy products, right?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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science
Belly Flop Physics 101: The Science Behind the Sting
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Belly flops are the least-dignified—yet most painful—way of making a serious splash at the pool. Rarely do they result in serious physical injury, but if you’re wondering why an elegant swan dive feels better for your body than falling stomach-first into the water, you can learn the laws of physics that turn your soft torso a tender pink by watching the SciShow’s video below.

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