If you've been ticketed for a traffic violation, you have options for resolving the citation. You can pay the fine and accept the penalties or contest the ticket in traffic court. Depending on the circumstances, you may also have another alternative: traffic school.
In some situations, attending traffic school (also called driving school) can help you avoid stiff fines and increased insurance rates. It can even keep your driving record clean and sometimes save you from a driver's license suspension.
Traffic school can be a valuable option for some drivers. Read on to learn more about:
- Driver eligibility
- How traffic school can benefit your insurance, driving record, and more
- Costs and fees
- Online and in-person learning options
- What to expect when attending traffic school
Who Is Eligible for Traffic School?
The jurisdiction and the circumstances of the violation determine eligibility for traffic school. Generally, it is an option for first-time offenders and nonserious violations (like breaking the speed limit or running a red light). It is usually not offered for misdemeanors or more serious offenses, like reckless driving or driving under the influence (DUI).
There are also limits on how often traffic school can help you. Most states restrict how many times you can take traffic school courses as an option. Repeat traffic offenders may not be eligible.
If you've already paid your fine or fought the citation in traffic court, traffic school is usually not an option. Consider your options carefully before committing to a course of action.
Different jurisdictions have their own restrictions and requirements. Check with your local traffic court, DMV office, or county clerk to see if you are eligible for traffic school.
How Traffic School Can Help
Completing traffic school can have several positive impacts. The benefits of attending can include:
- Reduction or complete dismissal of a fine
- A break in your insurance costs
- Preserving your driving record
- Preventing a driver's license suspension or revocation
It also can improve your driving overall and keep you (and other motorists) safer on the roads.
Save Points on Your Driving Record and Excessive Fines
Fines for traffic violations can run from mild to excessive, depending on your state's laws and your driving record. It can be tempting to pay the fine and move on. However, paying the fine is essentially pleading guilty to the infraction, which can impact your driving record for up to three years.
Before paying a fine, it is a good idea to see if traffic school is an option instead of, or in conjunction with, paying the fine. You should also consider your driving record and the impact on your car insurance rates. Often, a court will reduce or waive the penalty if you successfully complete traffic school. More importantly, traffic school often means the violation won't be reported on your record.
Prevent a Spike in Your Insurance Premiums
Depending on state law and your insurance policy, one typical moving violation in three to five years shouldn't affect your insurance rates. However, if you already have a violation on your record within this time frame and are cited again, you can expect a sharp increase in your insurance costs.
Review your insurance policy to see whether going to traffic school could clear the offense. It can help to call your insurance company anonymously and ask a series of basic questions, including if traffic school can prevent increases in your rate. You can also ask about discounts, as some insurance providers will provide policy discounts for completing traffic school or a defensive driving course.
Avoid a Driver's License Suspension
Typically, your license won't be suspended for one to two traffic violations (unless you're under 18 or the violation is a DUI), but you should always take minor offenses seriously. Most states have a point system, with each violation counting toward your point total. Serious and repeat violations carry more points.
Once you reach a predetermined point total, your license will often be automatically suspended and can even be revoked.
If your license is suspended or revoked, you will often be granted a hearing before a judge or hearing officer. During that hearing, explain why you didn't fight previous violations and what you've done to be a safer driver since the infractions. It can also be helpful to speak about how retaining your license is necessary to keep your job. Finally, ask if there are any driver improvement options, such as traffic school, you can do to retain your license.
Going to Traffic School: What to Expect
The goal of traffic school is to help you become a better driver overall and prevent future citations and collisions. It can vary, but courses are usually six to eight hours and consist of a series of traffic safety lessons. You can expect a refresher on your state's traffic laws, general driving rules, and safety practices.
After the lessons and classroom portion, you will take a final quiz or assessment. These usually consist of multiple-choice questions. You have to pass the assessment to complete the program. There may be an additional fee if you need to retake the quiz.
Finally, you will be issued a certificate of completion or other proof of completion. Submit this to all appropriate parties (usually the court, the DMV, and your auto insurance company) as soon as possible. Some courts will only dismiss the offense once they've received a valid certificate of completion.
Traffic School Costs and Online vs. In Person
It is not free to complete traffic school. Attending will cost you a traffic school fee and sometimes an administrative fee. You may also have to pay additional fees for processing and certificate issuance. Total costs typically don't exceed $150.
Attendance costs can vary based on several factors, including location, type of traffic school (online or in-person), and the specific program you choose. Confirm the cost with your local traffic court or the traffic school provider.
Some jurisdictions offer financial assistance for drivers who meet certain income requirements. If you need an accommodation due to a disability, these should be available at no extra cost.
Some providers offer both in-person classroom and online courses. While online traffic school may be more flexible and convenient for some drivers, be sure to do your research before paying the fee and attending. Verify the course meets all court and DMV requirements and the provider is approved. You can also ask your local court or DMV office for a list of authorized providers.
Need Legal Help With a Traffic Citation? Talk to an Attorney
You can handle most traffic tickets without the help of an attorney, but some situations require extra care. You may want to talk to a traffic ticket attorney if you have received multiple speeding tickets or other traffic citations. An attorney familiar with local laws can help you assess your options for attending traffic school or fighting the ticket. This may keep the violation of your record and could even save your driver's license.