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Traffic School

Read about traffic school and why it's required for some drivers.

Traffic school, while often a legal requirement, teaches drivers to be safer behind the wheel. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Traffic school, while often a legal requirement, teaches drivers to be safer behind the wheel.

Even the most conscientious drivers occasionally succumb to the urge to bend the rules of the road to act like NASCAR drivers on the highway, roll through a stop sign on a desolate back road or to take a cell phone call without using a headset. Some extraordinarily careful drivers can manage to break the law through sheer absent-mindedness, like ignoring a change in the speed limit or missing an out-of-the-way traffic signal.

More often than not, these momentary lapses go unpunished. But if a driver happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, he could very well find himself parked in front of a cruiser's flashing lights, on the receiving end of a stern lecture about the duties of a responsible driver.

Consequences of a Traffic Ticket

A penalty fine is only one of the consequences of getting a traffic citation. Unless a driver goes to court and beats the ticket, the infraction will also add points to one's driving record.

HowStuffWorks explains that each state has a point system that gives a numerical point value to every type of traffic offense. For example, a driver might get two points for exceeding the speed limit by 15 miles per hour, or three points for exceeding it by 20. If a driver accumulates a certain number of points on his or her license within a certain period of time, the state may hold a hearing to suspend the license. Points on a driver's license also will raise car insurance premiums. Most auto insurance companies allow one ticket every three to five years before raising the rates.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Traffic School

Traffic school, usually a full-day course on safe driving, gives drivers an opportunity to keep traffic tickets off of their record. Not all offenders are necessarily eligible, however. There's usually a limit on the number of times one can go to traffic school to discharge a ticket. In many states it's once a year, and some jurisdictions do not allow drivers to discharge more serious tickets (going 20 miles an hour over the speed limit, for example).

The advantages of traffic school are clear: keeping the ticket off of one's driving record and keeping car insurance premiums as low as possible. Faulty drivers may even learn a thing or two that will genuinely improve their driving skills. Drivers also should be aware of the downsides of traffic school. In many cases, if drivers attempt to fight a ticket and lose, they won't be able to go to traffic school to get the ticket off their records. So if they want to use the traffic school route, they'll probably have to go along with the ticket, even if they think they should be able to beat it.

Going to traffic school can also be time consuming and expensive. DrivingUniversity.com explains to potential traffic school students that they are responsible for paying for the course. In some states the driver will be responsible for the traffic school fees in addition to the original fine for the offense.

Still, traffic school is usually the best option, especially if the driver already has some points on his or her license. And even if a driver doesn't have a pending ticket, some insurance companies will actually give discounts for preemptively attending traffic school, allowing the driver to brush up on his or her driving skills and save a little on insurance.

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