Uh oh! You’ve made a mistake and received a moving violation for it. That’s alright, it happens to the best of us, but what can you do now?
California traffic tickets can get kind of expensive. You don’t want to have to pay that pesky fine and have a traffic violation marked on your permanent record.
Thankfully, there’s a solution.
The state of California allows you to complete a defensive driving course to avoid marks on your record. This article will be your guide on everything you need to know about California Traffic School.
California Traffic School Basics
Before you take the course, there are a couple of things you need to know. This section covers everything you need to know before you begin California traffic school.
California Traffic School Eligibility
The last thing you want to do after paying a fine is pay for a course you’re not eligible for. To go to defensive driving school, you must: have a valid non-commercial driver’s license in the state of California, pay all your fees to the court, and not have taken traffic school in the last 18 months.
But more importantly than that, your traffic violation must meet specific requirements. Your citation must be for a minor moving violation no more than 25 miles per hour over the speed limit.
You’re not eligible for traffic school if: your violation was non-moving, your offense was drug-related, your offense occurred in a commercial vehicle, your violation was an equipment offense, or if your violation was a misdemeanor.
An excellent way to know if you’re eligible for traffic school is to check the notice you received from the court. It should tell you whether or not you’re eligible.
If You Don’t Go
If you don’t go to traffic school after receiving a notice or miss the deadline, there are consequences. You may have your license suspended, you may have to pay additional insurance fees, and future employers may see the violation on your background check.
If you’re worried you’ll miss the deadline, there are options to ask for a deadline extension.
If You Do
Completing traffic school means you have the infraction wiped from your record. You’ll have to pay the traffic school whatever price they charge and pay an administration fee to the court.
Once you know why you should attend traffic school, what happens if you do/don’t, and whether you’re eligible, the next step is registering.
If you’ve received a courtesy notice from the court about traffic school, it’ll come with a fee. The first step in registering for a traffic school is to pay that fee. You can do this in-person at the court, by mail, over the phone, or on the internet.
After this, the court will send you (or hand it to you, if you came in person) an agreement document, ensuring you attend driving school. Now you can officially register for a traffic school.
Picking the Best Online Traffic School
In this day and age, there are many options for defensive driving schools. You can choose to go in person and sit in a classroom or go to an online traffic school.
Since the course is only eight hours long, an online course can save you money and time. You won’t have to commute anywhere, and you won’t have to pay the price of gas.
Drive Safely is an engaging, entertaining course available for twenty-five dollars (twenty with their discount service), so it’s a great way to keep down your California traffic school cost. They provide you with the shortest course available by law, so you don’t waste precious time. They also offer free electronic submissions to the DMV.
Reviewers have the course user-friendly, helpful, and informative. Some pointed out how easy it is to print out the certificate after the course is over. However, some have also pointed out that the customer service is slightly lacking.
Aceable offers thirty-dollar courses that also can go down to twenty dollars. It’s a quick, reliable online driving school, perfect for removing your tickets.
Reviewers have noted fun animations and videos keep the content engaging. They also noted the impact of the stories, so you’ll get some bang from your buck. They’ve also noted the good customer service.
Here’s a fun option.
MyImprov offers quick, simple courses for as low as $24.85. On their website, they boast that they send your application to the DMV themselves. You can even complete the course on the night of your deadline, and they promise to get it in for you.
And yes, as the name implies, the course is tied to the Improv Comedy Club. The content in this course was written by professional Hollywood writers, with an emphasis on comedy. They’ve been voted the “best traffic school,” and the reviews show that that just might be true.
Maybe an online course just isn’t for you. That’s okay; there are other methods available to complete your defensive driving course.
The state provides in-person classes on the weekends, which retired police officers usually teach. Just like a lot of online courses, most in-person courses also focus on watching various videos.
An in-person class allows you all of the benefits that an in-person college class would. You can ask your instructor questions or even just ask to have something phrased a different way. If you’re someone who benefits from learning from interaction, this could be the option for you.
However, consider the fact that you’ll be sitting in a room for eight hours long. Since these courses are in-person, they don’t have the benefit of getting broken up into digestible parts. This can get incredibly tedious, and if you didn’t enjoy going to high school, you might not enjoy this at all.
A good in-between option is a home-study workbook. They operate simply, and you’ll get a workbook with all of the relevant information and review the information by yourself.
This option is convenient because you won’t have to leave your home. You can even go to your favorite coffee shop and bang it out. If you enjoy reading and consider yourself studious, this could be the option for you.
However, consider the fact that this is the least interactive way to complete the course. You won’t have the benefit of viewing videos or asking questions. If you’re not a great reader or don’t enjoy study, this is probably not the option for you.
What is Covered in Traffic School?
Now that you know some of the best driving schools available, you might be wondering what you’ll be expected to do in the courses. The course requirements set by the CA DMV ensures that you will receive the same information, no matter the course. A traffic school in Irvine will teach the same thing as one in San Jose but how they present it is often unique to the school.
While the courses are eight hours long, it’s seldom one consecutive eight-hour class. The hours are broken down into individual subjects that you can complete at your own pace. This ensures that you stay engaged as well as learn efficiently.
Some of the topics that are covered are traffic laws, emergencies, vehicle maintenance, highway safety, and information about alcohol. There is a final exam at the end of each course that you need to pass. To help you pass your test, make sure you read our DMV handbook.
However, you don’t need to worry if you’re not the best test-taker. The course will most likely quiz you after every subject, with no penalty, to help you better understand the information.
There will also be deadlines for your course. Usually, this is pretty loose, though, allowing you a wide range of time. Failure to meet the deadline will mean you fail the course and will not get a refund.
Keep Your Driving Sharp
We know how hard it can be to drive in some parts of California. Many people consider L.A. to be one of the worst cities for driving. To make sure you don’t wind up having to pay more money and attending traffic school again, make sure you keep your defensive driving skills in top shape.
Our website has a whole section on defensive driving tips to make sure that you never run into these types of problems again. Never forget that defensive driving doesn’t just protect your wallet and time — it saves your life.
Keep Your Record Clean
If you’ve committed a minor infraction, you don’t need to worry about it forever. Whether in person or online, a defensive driving course is a good way to save you money and legal troubles.
Once you’ve understood the basics—the eligibility requirements, what happens if you do or don’t go, the registration process, the online schools, the other options, what the courses entail, and other materials to keep your driving sharp, you’ll be well on your way to completing California traffic school.
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