Taking Traffic School to Dismiss or Avoid the Penalties for a Traffic Ticket

The requirements for traffic school and how completion can reduce the consequences of or result in the dismissal of a traffic citation.

The consequences of traffic tickets can go beyond merely having to pay a fine. With court costs and fees, the amount you have to pay for a ticket can reach hundreds of dollars. And traffic ticket convictions on your driving record can lead to increased insurance costs, demerit points on your driving record, and eventually license suspension. Fortunately, most states have traffic school programs that eligible drivers can participate in to avoid some or all of the penalties and consequences of a traffic ticket.

Traffic School Requirements

Traffic school (which is also called "driver improvement," "defensive driving," and other similar names) is simply an educational course in traffic laws and safety. These courses might last anywhere from a few hours to a full day, depending on state guidelines.

Traffic school courses used to all be in a classroom setting where participants would have to attend in person. However, online and remote traffic school programs are probably more common now than in-person classes. With most traffic school programs, participants must demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the class subject matter by passing some sort of test at the end. Participants in online traffic school typically have to pass short quizzes after each unit of the program rather than one long test at the very end. But not to worry, if you don't pass a test or quiz, you usually get to keep trying until you do pass.

Traffic school normally costs somewhere in the range of $50 to a few hundred dollars.

After finishing a traffic school course, the attendee will generally receive a certificate of completion. The attendee might need to submit the certificate to the court or DMV. In some states, traffic school completion certificates are automatically sent by the program provider to the court or appropriate agency.

Traffic School Eligibility

It would be nice if you could always avoid the consequences of a traffic citation by taking traffic school. But, of course, that's not how it works. In order to get the benefits of traffic school, you need to be eligible. Eligibility limitations often include:

  • Types of offenses. The benefits of traffic school are generally available for only minor traffic violations. For example, completing traffic school might help you avoid some or all of the consequences of a speeding or red light ticket. But if you're convicted of something more serious like a DUI (driving under the influence), traffic school won't save you.
  • Type of license. Commercial drivers are prohibited by federal law from having violations reduced, dismissed, or masked from their record (through traffic school participation or otherwise). Also, the laws of most states make commercial drivers ineligible to receive benefits of traffic school such as point reductions. Some states also have similar restrictions for beginning drivers who are driving with a provision permit or some similar type of intermediate license.
  • Frequency of tickets. Generally, state laws allow drivers to receive traffic school benefits only once every so often. For example, drivers might eligible for a traffic school point reduction or ticket dismissal only once per year or once every two years.

Most traffic school restrictions fall into one of these three categories. But the laws of every state are different and so too are the eligibility requirements and restrictions for traffic school (a few states don't have traffic school at all).

Traffic School Benefits

Traffic school and defensive driving courses are designed to help drivers establish safer driving habits. But to encourage attendance, nearly every state has laws offering benefits to those who complete traffic school courses. The benefits of traffic school might include:

  • Demerit point avoidance or reductions. Many states issue demerit points for moving violations. And accumulating too many points can lead to the loss of driving privileges. So many states allow drivers to avoid the points for a ticket or just erase points from their record by completing traffic school.
  • Ticket dismissal. In some states, drivers can get a ticket dismissed entirely by completing traffic school.
  • License reinstatement. The laws of a few states allow judges to reduce the period of a license suspension if the driver completes a traffic school program.
  • Insurance rate benefits. Even drivers with a clean record can often benefit from traffic school. In many states, drivers who voluntarily complete traffic school or defensive driving can receive an insurance rate discount.

Again, these types of traffic school benefits will be available only to eligible drivers who complete an appropriate course.