Driver Improvement Glossary

If you haven't taken a safe driving course, recently some of the terms associated with traffic school and defensive driving might seem similar and confusing. Below are some of the key words and phrases you might come across as you research traffic tickets, defensive driving, and other specifics related to maintaining a clean driving record.

Driver Improvement Terms (A-N)

Defensive Driving

This term refers is used to refer to two different things:

  • A style of driving that helps you react safely when faced with road hazards, like dangerous weather, drivers, or road conditions.
  • A safe driving course you can take after receiving a traffic ticket (court- and state-dependent), or to reduce your insurance premium if your insurance company provides discounts.
    • Also commonly known as “traffic school" and “driver improvement"; see below.

Driver Improvement Program

A term used by some states to describe a safe driving course required or optional after a traffic violation (court- and state-dependent), or for an insurance premium reduction (if allowed by your provider).

* Also commonly known as “defensive driving" (see above) or “traffic school" (see below).

Driver's Education

A course designed to teach new drivers the ins and outs of being behind the wheel. Often required by states before drivers are able to receive an initial driver's license (such as teen drivers).

Habitual Violator

A term used for a driver who has accumulated too many traffic tickets, been in multiple accidents, or received multiple convictions for other offenses.

Negligent Operator

A driver who has accumulated a certain number of points on their driving record. A negligent driver may also be one who has been charged with driving under the influence, hit and run, or other multi-point violations.

Driver Improvement Terms (P-Z)

Point and Insurance Reduction Program (PIRP)

A safe driving course designed for drivers to remove points from a driving record and/or reduce insurance rates. Most commonly used in New York State.

Point System

A system designed to punish bad drivers and reward good driving behavior. Points are awarded to a driver's record for traffic violations—drivers who accumulate too many points on may face various consequences, to include higher insurance rates or possible license suspension.

Public Driving Record

Each state maintains records on every licensed driver. While the traffic court or motor vehicles department has access to your complete driving record, insurance companies, employers, and others can only access your public driving record. This is important because taking a traffic school or defensive driving course will not erase a traffic ticket from your permanent record but it may be able to keep it off your publicly accessed record, depending on your state's rules.

Revoked Driver's License

When your driving privileges are cut completely, resulting in the need to re-apply for a license from scratch. Driving privileges can be revoked for driving under the influence, excessive speed, too many traffic violations, and other dangerous driving decisions.

Unlike a suspended license (see below), when a driver's license is revoked, driving privileges are permanently cancelled, and you will be required to not only meet all court-ordered fees and courses, but also apply and test for a brand new driver's license.

Suspended Driver's License

A temporary stoppage of your driving privileges. Drivers can lose their privileges behind the wheel for a number of reasons, to include:

  • Failing to appear in court.
  • Too many negative driving points.
  • Insufficient auto insurance.
  • Driving under the influence.

Each department of motor vehicles or traffic court will have specific requirements for reinstating a suspended license. This may include resolving an outstanding court case, paying hefty fines as well as attending traffic school or a defensive driving course before a license will be reinstated.

A habitual continuation of traffic violations may result in a revoked driver's license (see above).

Traffic School

Another term used to define safe driver courses drivers can take to improve their driving record, offset driving record points, reduce insurance premiums, or other options required/allowed by their state.

* Also referred to as “defensive driving" and “driver improvement"; see above.

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