Traffic School: Not a Bad Deal

Aside from contesting a citation successfully, there is one other way to keep a traffic ticket from being recorded as a conviction on your DMV record—attend a DMV licensed or court approved online Traffic Violator School. Upon completion of traffic school, your citation will be dismissed for traffic school attendance. The ticket will not be reported as a conviction on your record and your insurance will not increase. Traffic school is a viable option for people who are too busy to contest their ticket or who just want to keep a clean record without further interaction with the traffic court.

If you simply pay your fine amount, you’ll have spent over a hundred dollars and have a conviction recorded on your DMV record for five years. When you attend traffic school, you still have to pay an administrative fee to the court roughly equivalent to your fine amount. However, since your case is dismissed through traffic school attendance, you will save approximately $250 per year in insurance costs for three years.

Even if you contest your citation and lose, the judge will usually allow you to attend traffic school. Upon completion of traffic school, your conviction will be set aside and reported to the DMV as a dismissal. This is why fighting your ticket is a low-risk option. Even if you lose, you can still keep your driving record clean through traffic school.

Attend “Live” Traffic School

A list of DMV approved traffic schools is available at the DMV and your local courthouse. These courses offer incentives such as “comedy” (seldom funny) and “pizza” (seldom tasty). Due to cut-throat competition from first-time businessmen and other fools, the average price of these classses is quite low, about $20. The classes are 8 hours long, which by law includes 6 hours and 40 minutes of in class instruction. Enjoy.

Attend Online Traffic School

Many courts now accept online traffic school as an alternative to traditional DMV licensed 8 hour schools. Ticket Assassin is currently reviewing several online schools for value, content, and reliability. If you attend an online school, Yelp them and send us the review. We will use your comments, along with our own research, to recommend one or more outstanding online traffic schools.

Traffic School Frequency: Once every 18 months?

The law allows you to attend traffic school once every 18 months for a traffic infraction. Upon completion of traffic school, your citation is recorded as a dismissal on your confidential driving record. Your confidential record can only be viewed by the courts, law enforcement, and the DMV. Your insurance company does not get to see your confidential record. If you attend traffic school no more than once every 18 months, no note that the citation ever occurred is made on your public driving record.

If you receive another infraction within 18 months from your last traffic school attendance, you will not be automatically eligible to attend. However, if the court is not aware of this previous attendance, it will usually assign you to traffic school again. Even if the court knows that you’ve attended traffic school within 18 months, the judges have wide discretion in this and will often send you to traffic school again within 18 months. Why? Each time you attend traffic school, the court collects an additional $24 to $30 fee in addition to your bail. The court gets to keep this fee and this fee can only be legally collected if you are assigned to traffic school.

If the court denies you the favor of a second traffic school, you can respond by exercising your legal right to contest your citation; this will cost the court money. When you contest, the court has to pay the citing officer overtime ($200-300) and also has to pay the judge, bailiff and court clerks to run your trial. This adds up to several hundred dollars per case. In most cases, the court would rather play nice, let you attend traffic school again, and make $100-300 from your fine plus $24 for traffic school. This is why most courts have no problem reassigning repeat offenders to traffic school. I know scores of students who have attended traffic school three to four times in a single year. One former traffic school student of mine attended class 11 times in two years. Due to her attendance, not a single conviction had been recorded on her DMV record. Yes, she had a “clean” record.

If the court allows you to attend traffic school more than once in 18 months, the DMV will record this second “dismissal” on both your confidential and public driving records. Though your insurance company will know you were cited and attended traffic school, they can not legally raise your rates. Insurance rates can only be increased if a guilty conviction or at-fault accident is recorded on your public record. A dismissal, whether recorded publicly or confidentially, can never be used to increase your rates.

A Note on Online and Homestudy Traffic Schools

Many California courts now accept certain online, homestudy, and “video” traffic schools. These online and homestudy traffic schools are not licensed by the DMV but by the individual county courts. Be aware that some courts do not accept any online schools. Before taking an online school, make sure it is accepted in the court that has jurisdiction over your case. Completion certificates from all DMV licensed traffic schools are accepted in all traffic courts in California since these schools are licensed by both the DMV and the individual courts.

All California traffic courts will accept a certificate from a DMV licensed traffic school. Since DMV traffic schools are state licensed, many other states will also accept a California DMV completion certificate for a citation in their state. California drivers can complete a DMV licensed traffic school for tickets in Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Florida, Missouri and several other states I wouldn’t be caught dead in.

Advantages of Online Traffic School

Online traffic schools are now accepted in most California traffic courts and are becoming increasingly popular. They can be convenient for people who are strapped for time, agoraphobic, or who like to learn about traffic safety in their underwear while consuming a pound cake. Online schools are also great for those too busy to attend a traditional traffic school and have fifty bucks that says their computer nerd buddy can do it for them between porn downloads (this is, of course, illegal and not recommended;a cited motorist must complete his own class).

Online traffic schools cost about the same as DMV licensed traffic schools though they typically take far less time to complete. I have friends who claim to have completed an online school in less than 2 hours, a huge time savings over the state-mandated 8 hours of lecture, gore videos, folding metal chairs and mind-numbing tedium that typifies many traditional traffic schools. Also, going to a “real” traffic school involves driving your car and the possibility of an accident, another speeding ticket, a parking ticket, or being mugged on the way to class (traffic school instructors are underpaid and often desperate). Since you’re already in the hole with your current ticket, why risk further harm?