I have an embarrassing confession to make. A month or so back, I got my first speeding ticket in nearly 29 years.
To put it in a perspective that only Cleveland Browns fans can appreciate, my last ticket was in the early morning hours of Sept. 14, 1993. It was after the Browns beat the 49ers on Monday Night Football in what was the last hurrah for quarterback Bernie Kosar, who was cut less than two months later.
Previously I had a bit of a strange speeding history. In 1985-86, I somehow amassed five tickets, all while driving that famous sports car, a Chevrolet Chevette.
When I got married in 1994, however, I put my speeding days behind me. I found myself the step-dad of two girls, ages 10 and 12, and knowing their safety was in my hands completely changed my driving habits.
As for this latest ticket, I have no excuse. It's a road I drive often, and police like to run radar there. Instead of paying the waiver, I opted to take an online defensive driving class where, once I passed, the violation would be dismissed and my auto insurance rates wouldn't go up.
Several lessons resonated long after the class ended. First was how they emphasized that more than 100 people a day die in traffic accidents, none of whom left home that morning thinking they would become a traffic fatality statistic. That resonated with me, as I'm now a grandfather who regularly drives his two grandsons places.
Other lessons were obvious: Speed is the leading cause of fatal accidents; intersections are the most likely places for accidents to occur; and following too closely is a major no-no. They are big on driver awareness and anticipation.
One habit I changed right away was putting the brakes on distracted driving. No more sneaking in a quick text at the light.
Secondly, I am more aware. But not just on what I should be doing, but more clearly on what others shouldn't be doing.
For example, when I left the office a few nights ago, I was getting ready to turn right onto a main street. Another driver was letting me in. I was halfway into the lane waiting for the light to turn green when a motorcyclist sped through the half-lane opening doing at least 50 mph.
I had two thoughts. First: "Man he timed that light well." And second: "This guy better be glad I just took that defensive driving course, because he obviously hadn't."