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A close call on the road

I learned driving in my late twenties when I came to the United States. A friend taught me for a few hours.

That's all the driving education I had, and I learned just enough traffic rules to pass the test.

Learning new things is always easier and comes more natural when you are young. Anytime you miss the windows of opportunity and the optimum learning time, it gets harder.

Because I didn't learn driving as a teenager like most Americans do, it wasn't a natural thing for me. Therefore, I have never developed a love for cars or driving.

In addition, I am a little bit "directionally-challenged." So I don't like driving at all, especially to unfamiliar places.

Knowing I am not good behind the wheel, however, has made me a very careful driver. I don't exceed the highway speed limit, usually driving 60 mph or less.

I have never caused any traffic accidents, nor have I received any traffic tickets -- just a few parking tickets.

Once, I parked too close to a stop sign. Another time I parked in the wrong direction on the street. Instead of having the curb on the right side of the car, I parked on the left side. But they were just harmless tickets due to my lack of knowledge about traffic rules.

In my 17 years of driving, I have kept a perfect record on my driver's license. But that almost changed July 16.

On that Wednesday evening at around 8 p.m., after going to swimming lessons, a library visit and stopping at a store on Radio Drive, my kids and I were on the way home. I made a left turn from Radio Drive onto Valley Creek Road.

Just as I was entering the intersection, the light changed from yellow to red. Instead of hitting my brakes really hard, I kept going.

"Mom, there is a police car!" Suddenly, my kids became alert.

As soon as I turned left on Valley Creek Road, a police car that was right at the intersection flashed its light and followed me.

Once I saw the flashing light in my rear mirror, I knew I was in trouble.

I quickly turned to the right shoulder and stopped. I got my wallet out and held it in my hand. I was ready for the policeman to ask for my license.

In my mind I was hoping that once he checked my driver's license and found a perfect record, and knew that I am not a repeat traffic offender or a criminal, he might have mercy on me and let me go.

The policeman walked to the passenger side. I lowered the window.

Instead of asking to see my driver's license, he asked me a question: "What was the color of the light when you entered the intersection?"

I was not sure what to say.

Fortunately, my 10-year old son Andy came to my rescue. He responded quickly: "It was turning from yellow to red."

I thought: "Good job, Andy!"

The policeman explained because I hadn't quite exited the intersection when he had the green light, it meant I had run the red light.

I was nervous and waiting for the verdict.

"Here is the deal. I am not going to give you a ticket this time, but I want you to remember that you should be more careful when you drive, for your son's safety and other people's safety," he said. "You need to set a good example for your children."

No ticket? What a relief!

I was not only relieved, but also very grateful. I was thankful for this policeman for not issuing me a ticket when he could legally do so.

After the policeman left, my son said: "Mom, you didn't get a ticket because of me."

He was probably right.

I suppose policemen or policewomen might be more lenient when kids are present. Kids see policemen as heroes, the good guys. So it was possible that the policeman was nice and played the good guy for my kids' sake.

Yes, the policeman didn't give me a ticket this time. But I realized that just because I haven't got any traffic tickets doesn't mean I will never.

Just because I run a red light and didn't get caught or ticketed doesn't mean I can do it again and will never get caught.

I was thankful for the policeman for the reminder to think about the safety of my kids and others and to set a good example for my kids.

I know kids model what their parents do.

I always put on seatbelt once I get into a car. My kids have developed this habit of wearing seatbelts since they were little. Now, if Andy sees someone not wearing the seatbelt, he will remind the person.

Yes, I need to be more careful and be a better law-abiding citizen on the road, for the safety of everyone and for setting a good example.

I was also thankful that my kids witnessed the incident and could learn a lesson, too.

Andy already knows some traffic rules. Once when I turned from Commerce Drive to Sam's auto shop, he said: "Mom, you are not supposed to cross the double yellow line."

At age 10, he has already learned traffic rules in school.

Andy has now become a more vigorous monitor of my driving. When I drive with him in the car, he reminds me: "Mom, drive slowly and don't run the red light!"

He is right. I'd better listen to my son and do everything right to prevent another close call.

I don't want to get caught for any traffic violations, either by a policeman or by my own family policeman sitting right behind me.

And I intend to keep the perfect record on my driver's license.