Question: Is traffic school a good thing or just a scam? Will it save me on my insurance? What about reducing points on my license?
Answer: Taking a defensive driving or accident prevention course to become a better driver is always a good thing. Will there be a side benefit to your license or insurance premium? It depends.
Some states require car insurance companies offer a discount to drivers who voluntarily choose to take an accident-prevention course from an approved traffic school. The discount is usually between 5 and 15 percent. (See “Defensive driving and driver training discounts” for more information)
There may be eligibility restrictions to receive the discount.
For example, in Georgia drivers age 25 or older can receive a 10 percent discount on certain portions of their car insurance policy if they’ve completed an approved defensive driver course AND if their prior three-year record is clean of traffic violations, at-fault accidents or claims. Those under 25 can get a discount as well but must complete both classroom and practical training.
There are states that mandate an auto insurance discount only for mature drivers (minimum age varies but typically starts around 55). This one usually lasts three years, but can be renewed. For example, Pennsylvania allows for individuals to take a refresher course every three years to for senior drivers to maintain the discount.
In many states, laws don’t dictate if successfully completing traffic school will earn drivers of all ages a car insurance discount – instead the state leaves it up to the insurance companies to decide.
Dodge a bullet -- or get a discount
Several auto insurance providers on their own offer a discount if certain approved courses are taken, in the hopes that drivers will retain what is learned. Fewer accidents equals fewer claims, and that makes insurance companies happy – and your car insurance rates low.
There are also states that allow you to take a traffic school to remove points off your license or even keep a violation and points from going on your license in the first place. Keeping an offense off your record won’t result in a discount, but it can keep your insurance policy from being surcharged.
The problem is, typically one cannot go to traffic school for both a ticket, or points removal, and an insurance discount. If you take the course expecting both, you may be disappointed.
Of course, there are exceptions. New York is one. Their point and insurance reduction program lets you reduce as many as four points on your driving record and receive a minimum 10 percent discount on your liability and collision premiums for three years. (Read “How I aced my online driving course for a car insurance discount”)
Since laws, eligibility requirements and discounts vary greatly, we advise that before you take any type of driving class to check with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles and/or your current car insurance carrier for a list of approved course providers and to make sure it will give you the benefit you’re seeking.
By doing your due diligence in advance of taking traffic school, you’ll know if the cost of the course (remember it needs to be an approved one) is worth what you’ll receive in return -- and won't feel scammed.