Defensive Driving FAQs

Below are a few of the most common questions drivers have when it comes to taking a defensive driving course. Please keep in mind that some requirements are state specific.

For state-specific requirements, please select your state.

What is a defensive driving course?

Defensive driving courses—also known in some states as traffic school—are courses that enhance your skills behind the wheel. They are state-specific and address your state's traffic requirements and regulations, as well as areas of concern on the road. They also aim to instill habits that can prevent accidents or help you react more quickly to an oncoming hazard.

In short, a defensive driving course refreshes your driving knowledge and teaches you to drive defensively, giving you a better foundation to make safe, quick decisions while behind the wheel.

Why might I need/want to take a defensive driving course?

While the allowable reasons are state-dependent, these courses can be taken for the following:

  • Point reduction or removal.
  • Insurance premium reduction.
  • Driver's license reinstatement (IF the suspension is due to license points).
  • Additional training to up-level your driving skills.

Do I have to go to a specific school to take a course?

It depends on what your state allows, but many states have approved online defensive driving courses as viable alternatives to the traditional classroom course. Sometimes, it also depends on the type of violation you committed, or whether you're taking a course voluntarily to earn a discount on your insurance. Check with your court or insurance provider to see what's acceptable for your circumstances.

How much does a defensive driving course cost?

The price of your course will depend on the state you take it in and the provider you choose.

How long do defensive driving courses typically take?

The duration of your defensive driving course also depends on your state's requirements. You can generally expect to spend anywhere from 6-8 hours in your course, with some being shorter (3 or 4 hours) and some being much longer (10 or 12 hours). Check with your court or research courses in your area for details on what you can expect.

If you take it in person in a classroom-type setting, you may be required to complete the course in one sitting, depending on how long it runs. Online courses can typically be completed in installments at your own pace.

Can I take a defensive driving course if I have a commercial driver's license?

For most states the answer is no. There are some states that will allow you to take a defensive driving course if you hold a CDL but you were not operating a commercial motor vehicle at the time of your violation. It is best to check with your licensing agency or the agency in which you received a violation.

What are the requirements for taking defensive driving?

While these do vary from state to state, the basic requirements for taking a defensive driving course include the following:

  • Possession of a valid, noncommercial state driver's license.
  • Not having completed a prior course within your state's allowable window (see below).
  • An eligible moving violation, if applicable and allowed by your state.
  • For insurance purposes, a decent driving record and a policy that allows courses for premium reductions.

Does taking a defensive driving course remove a ticket from my driving record?

It completely depends on your state and your court. Generally, the answer is no.

A defensive driving course will TYPICALLY offset points from your public driving record, in the form of a reduction or a credit (again, this is highly state- and court-dependent), rather than remove the violation from your record completely.

How many times can I take a defensive driving course?

Like everything else, this is state dependent. Below are a few examples of state limits on defensive driving courses:

  • California: Every 18 months, unless approved by the court.
  • Texas: Every 12 months.
  • New York: Every 36 months.

If I take defensive driving, do I still have to pay my ticket?

Most likely, yes. But in some cases, the court may reduce your fines if you agree to take a defensive driving course.

Can I take defensive driving to remove a ticket for driving under the influence?

No. Drivers who receive tickets for driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence cannot take a defensive driving course to points from their driving record. In some states, drivers who have received a DWI or DUI may be required to take a course specifically designed for these offenses. These are not considered defensive driving courses. Visit your state's motor vehicle department website for more information on DWI or DUI infractions.

Will defensive driving remove a parking ticket?

No. You can't take defensive driving courses for non-moving violations.

How will I know if I'm eligible to take a defensive driving course?

Usually, your appropriate state department will send you a notice in the mail letting you know you qualify for a defensive driving course, but you can also call your court or DMV and ask.

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