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Defensive Driving Class: Is It Worth It?

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Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020

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traffic school

Defensive driving classes are a great way to brush up on your driving skills while learning how to avoid car accidents.

But the odds of that statement encouraging you to spend anywhere from $25 to $100 and four to six hours of your life studying like you’re in Drivers Education class are about 1 in 1,000,000, right?

Many of the companies offering these courses also shamelessly advertise their ability to reduce insurance premiums by 5-10 percent per year, in some cases for up to 5 years. TTAI is here to (mostly) dispel the advantage of these courses…but more on that later.

Why Defensive Driver Courses?

The reality is, choosing to attend a defensive driving course is typically a decision made to get a ticket dismissed, remove or reduce points from your driving record, or compulsory if a court of law has demanded you do so as a result of a driving offense.

[How much does insurance go up after a ticket?]

While these courses are great teaching exercises for soon-to-be newly licensed drivers and the elderly, a driver between the ages of 22 and 60 can probably live without it – unless the course will serve any of the purposes listed above.

[How much is insurance for a 16 year old?]

What Do They Teach You?

Each company or state may have their own standardized requirements of what must be discussed in order to qualify for the credit.

Here is a list of some of the basics:

1. How to prevent automobile collisions
2. Attributes of the “defensive driver”
3. Freeway driving
4. Techniques for safe passing
5. How to spot and avoid impaired drivers

The above list is only a snapshot of what you’ll be learning. These courses can be as long as six hours, so expect more to be covered!

Can I Take Defensive Driving Class Online?

Many of us don’t have the time or inclination to sit in a classroom setting for several hours and listen to someone drone on about defensive driving.

This is why many of the classes are “comedy” based nowadays. Without throwing in some jokes from time to time, these classes would certainly lull you to sleep.

The good news is that just about every company offering these classes has taken to the Internet to offer an online version.

This means you can view the material and test yourself from the comfort of your own home and at your own pace.

What Should I Consider Before Taking A Defensive Driving Class?

We’re glad you asked. There are a few major points of note when deciding if the defensive driving class is for you. Put simply, here are two things to consider in order to be certain you are not wasting your time or money.

1. Not all defensive driving classes are accredited by your state.

So you paid your $45, sat through 6 hours of material, passed your chapter exams only to find out the course you finished is not approved by your state and the “certificate” you received is worthless towards removing the ticket from your record…ouch!

Tip: Make sure your course CLEARLY states it is recognized and approved by your state prior to clicking the “purchase” button.

2. Not all insurance companies offer a discount for completing this course.

Insurance agents regularly find themselves explaining that these courses are of no benefit toward premium reduction on your policy. As discussed above, these courses will likely only result in a discount for the very young and the elderly. Most insurers expect that you know how to properly operate a vehicle.

Look at it this way. If you pay $1,000 per year for car insurance and spend $50 to take a course that gets you a 5% discount…you spent $50 to earn a $50 discount and spent four to six hours of your life doing so.

However, if you’ve got a teen that is eligible for the 5% discount for five years, it could make sense.  And they’d potentially learn something to avoid an accident.

You Can’t Fool the Insurance Companies

For those of you who took the class to remove a ticket from your record, consider it a win that the ticket was removed. But understand that insurers have seen it all before and they know the average person only takes the course for that exact reason, and would be slightly foolish to start discounting every driver who recently received a ticket.

That said, many insurance companies will not give you the discount if you’ve had a ticket or accident within the past 3-5 years. So don’t expect to get your speeding ticket removed and a discount for taking the course!

Tip: Verify your insurer offers a discount for defensive driving courses prior to taking one…as if anyone would do so for any other reason than to remove a violation! You will likely find they don’t offer a discount unless you’re under 21 or over 60.

As always, shop your insurance rate by gathering insurance quotes and pick up the phone to call a few insurance agents if you are seeking to lower your car insurance bill.

The odds are you could get a better deal if you haven’t shopped around in the past two or three years, defensive driving course or not.

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