A defensive driving course, or traffic school, is designed to teach techniques and attitudes for safer driving and to reinforce knowledge of local traffic laws.
While most drivers are motivated to enroll in a course to save money or to keep points off their licenses, the most important role for these schools is to teach effective driving tactics and concepts to make their students better drivers.
How Traffic School Works
Traffic schools are generally private businesses authorized by the state to offer safe driving courses. You’ll need to pay a fee to attend, but in many states classes can be taken online. Depending on the state and type of class the amount of time required to be spent in class ranges from 4 – 12 hours. Be sure not to show up late, as attending the full sessions are usually required in order to pass.
Each state’s program is different, but in general drivers are given an incentive to enroll. These incentives can include:
- Reducing penalties for a moving violation – In return for taking a class, the penalties for a traffic ticket may be waived, or a citation may be removed from your driving record.
- Improving your driving record – In some states you can reduce the number of points on your driving record even if you were not issued a citation.
- Saving on insurance premiums – In any state, taking a course to clean up your driving will help keep your insurance rates down. Under some state programs you’ll be guaranteed a minimum discount on your insurance for completing a class. New York’s Point & Insurance Reduction Program, for example, gives a 10% reduction in insurance rates for three years. Furthermore, some insurers such as GEICO, offer defensive driving course discounts of their own.
- Learning to be a better driver – You can drop into your seat and let the minutes tick by and do the bare minimum to get credit for taking the course. However, if you take the course seriously, you will become a better driver and more aware of the driving laws of your state.
In some cases, a defensive driving course will be required, such after serious violations like reckless driving or DUI. You may also need to attend traffic school to get your driving privileges restored after a license suspension.
Common Curriculum & Eligibility Requirements
Common curriculum includes:
- Safe and defensive driving techniques
- DUI/DWI laws
- Traffic laws and consequences of different violations
- Attitude about arrival time, safety and speeding
- Attitude about sharing the road with others
Common eligibility requirements include:
- You have a valid driver’s license
- You received the violation while driving a private (non-commercial) vehicle
- The violation was not a felony or misdemeanor
- The violation was not substance related (not a DUI/DWI)
- You have not benefited from traffic school in the last 1 – 2 years
- You have not exceeded a certain number of driving points or moving violations