So you got yourself a ticket. Or not, (more about that later). What now? If this citation is your first, or first in a while, we’d like to offer this handy guide to walk you through the easiest way to make it go away.
First Things First – “Defensive Driving Near Me” Kinda Depends on Where You Are
I know that sounds obvious, but hear me out.
One of the great things about living in the United States is the pride of living in the state you live in. Every resident points to unique features that make their state the best. In the US, every state government gets to make decisions on how to serve their residents best, and the decisions they make can vary widely from state to state. These differences include the rules concerning driving. From when and how you get a license to rules about how you can drive to what happens when you break one of those rules all depends on the state you call home.
Depending on where you live, you may not be looking for defensive driving at all. Instead, you might be in need of traffic school or of a driver improvement or point reduction course. The kind of course you need to find, and the kinds of things that course must include is determined by the governmental driver safety of your state. Again, depending on where you live, the answers you seek may be found at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD), the Department of Public Safety (DPS), the office of the Secretary of State (SOS), the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA), or maybe the Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV), By the way, the rest of this article will focus on one state in particular, Texas. While the information will be generically useful if you received a ticket elsewhere, you may want to jump ahead to your state’s particulars.
Of all the states, perhaps Texas cooks up the most confusing bowl of alphabet soup. To apply for a license to operate a motor vehicle, you might think you would start by contacting the Department of Motor Vehicles, but you’d be wrong. In Texas, the DMV is where you get license plates, not your drivers license. You also pay your county taxes there, but that’s another matter entirely. To get a drivers license, you apply through the Department of Public Safety (DPS). If, after getting that license, a DPS officer (a.k.a. state trooper) or other law enforcement official finds you in violation of a DPS (or city or county) driving law, you can receive a ticket. Once this occurs, the courts take over.
The adage “Everything’s bigger in Texas” most assuredly extends to its court system. Statewide there are over 2500 entities that distribute and adjudicate tickets. While each has its own procedures, they all have one thing in common. In most cases, drivers who are convicted of certain moving violations can have their tickets dismissed by completing a defensive driving course. However, it must be noted that most of them won’t call it defensive driving. Most of these courts refer to defensive driving as a DSC, or Driver Safety Course. The court will also stipulate that the DSC be state approved, and it is here where the alphabet soup is turned up to a boil. You might think this approval would have to come from the DPS or the DMV but, in fact, the endorsement is bestowed by the TEA (Texas Education Agency) and the TDLR (Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation). So, to recap: If you run afoul of the DPS, a DSC, approved by the TEA and TDLR (not the DMV) taken ASAP, could be your redemption PDQ. See why we wrote this guide?
So, How Do I Take Advantage of Defensive Driving Texas?
Before we explore the “how,” let’s take a look at the “why.” If you are reading this, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’re looking to dismiss a ticket. For most people, the topic “defensive driving classes near me” doesn’t sound like the makings of an afternoon of pleasant web surfing, but maybe it should. While not necessarily pleasant, as we’ll discuss in a moment, it could be profitable.
While it is still potentially profitable (again, more on that later), that’s not why you’re here, is it? You’re probably more interested in the immediate concern of making a ticket go away, so let’s get to how that’s done.
Texas is most gracious with the benefits it extends to drivers who choose to complete a driver safety course, but to enjoy these benefits fully, you have to play by their rules. Most moving violations can be dismissed with the successful completion of a defensive driving course but it is EXTREMELY important that you do not register for a course prior to contacting the court. These are the steps any of the 2500+ courts will want you to follow before they will grant ticket dismissal.
Follow these steps:
- Contact the Court – Depending on the municipality, it generally takes 24-48 hours for a ticket to be entered into the court system. After that time (but before the final date written on the ticket!), contact the court for instructions.
- Pay Any Required Fees – There will be a court cost assessed for the privilege of taking defensive driving. This out of pocket expense will be less than paying the citation in full and substantially less than the impact on your insurance premiums caused by a citation appearing on your driving record.
- Find and Complete an Approved Defensive Driving Course – Lots of ways to get this handled, we’ll detail them below.
- Secure a Copy of Your Driving Record – A copy of your 3A driving record will be part of the documentation the court will require. More on the whys and hows in a minute.
- Return All Documentation to the Court – Read their instructions carefully, especially the date by which all paperwork is due!
- Give Yourself a Bonus – There’s a chance that, in the long run, you could make money when this is all said and done. Since that’s the best part, we’ll save it for last.
Speaking of bonus, you can jump to the bottom of this article to see if the answer you’re looking for can be found in our FAQ’s. While you probably didn’t frequently ask defensive driving questions before you got your ticket, folks get tickets frequently enough and they all have questions. The first one is probably the same one you had, namely “Why me?” Unfortunately, our FAQ’s can’t help with that one, but you might just find the defensive driving answers you need all the same.
Requesting Defensive Driving from the Court
The easiest way to knock out this task is in the same way you found this article. If there is not a website notation on your citation, a quick “City of ________” search will quickly get you the information you need. Having just taken a peek at municipal websites of the five biggest cities in Texas, I can tell you that there are a few requirements that they have in common. For example, the City of Fort Worth lists the following restrictions to eligibility:
- Applicant must not have completed a driving safety course to dismiss a citation within the last 12 months or be in the process of taking the course for another traffic violation
- A speeding violation must not exceed the posted speed limit by more than 24 MPH
- Applicant must be at least 17 years old
- Applicant must possess a valid Texas driver’s license or military ID (that is not classified as a commercial drivers license CDL)
- Applicant must present current personal proof of liability insurance in your name or listing your name as a covered driver
- Violation did not occur in a construction zone with workers present
- Violation did not occur while passing a school bus
Some of these restrictions are based on state law, others on municipal ordinance. Exemption lists of these qualifications can be found on the websites of virtually every court in the state. Hopefully, your eligibility is not already at risk. Double check your particular court’s rules and, if you’re good to go, request the option to take a driving safety course. Depending on the entity, filing this request might require a trip to the courthouse but, in most cases, a phone call, electronic or mail-in request will suffice.
Pay for the Privilege
You knew it was going to cost you when it happened. The five minutes you tried to save by speeding turned into being 20 minutes later to where you were heading once the encounter with the officer was finally all said and done. And now you’re kicking yourself for how it’s going to kick you in the wallet as well.
If there is a silver lining in all of this, it is that what you’ll pay the court to take defensive driving will be less than what you’d pay for the face value of the ticket.
What you’ll pay may not only depend on where (the city or county) you received your ticket but, additionally, where you were in that where when you were pulled over. My quickee court search showed that the cost for taking defensive driving increased if the violation occurred in a school zone. For example, in the City of Dallas, it will cost you $114.10 to request defensive driving for an eligible ticket, $139.10 if you were cited in a school zone. In Austin, the cost elevates from $113 to $138 if young scholars were at risk.
If you think these administrative fees are excessive, this page of the City of San Antonio website lists fines for every conceivable motor vehicle violation. In San Antonio, moving violation fines start at $173 and range up to over $1100.
Figure Out the Right Defensive Driving Texas Course for You
Once you’ve gotten the OK, it’s time to get down to it. Here’s where things might get a little tricky. 16,000 people search the term “defensive driving Texas” every month, and popping that term in your search bar will return nearly 20 million results in less than a second. Where do you begin? It all depends on what you need. Alternately, it may depend on nothing at all. We’re going to unpack that last contradiction a bit, but if you’d like to cut to the chase, bite the bullet and get on with it, here’s your chance.
If you found this post while searching for “defensive driving near me,” you might have been looking for Google Maps to point you to a conveniently located defensive driving school. Classroom defensive driving can be a lot of fun, but it doesn’t rate very high on the convenience scale. After all, you can’t get “nearer me” that where you are right now and that can be afforded with defensive driving Texas online. Online defensive driving courses are great because they can be tailored to fit your unique schedule, location and learning style. But that brings you back to the issue of a kazillion search results in a nanteenth of a second…
Allow me to let you in on a little secret. With the ridiculous number of search results for Texas defensive driving, you might assume that there are thousands of providers of Texas approved defensive driving. The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation is the state agency tasked with maintenance and management of defensive driving school certifications. The TDLR website features a list of all currently licensed course providers. This list is engineered to render in random order any time it is opened. This way, no one company has an unfair advantage, even if they have a ridiculous name like AAA111SpeedyTicketDismissal.com. Examination of this list reveals that, in reality, there are only about 50 TDLR approved defensive driving providers in the entire Great State of Texas. The “G.S of T.” allows each of these providers to license their curriculum to state approved defensive driving schools who in turn can market this curriculum however they desire. What does this look like in real life? Hundreds of companies promising life-changing, money-saving, quick and convenient ways to complete one of the same 50 courses that are all simply variations of the same state-mandated curriculum.
Speaking of promises…
A lot of sites scream at you with guarantees, the chief of which is some variation of “Lowest Price!” Believing you to be a savvy consumer, can I let you in on another insider tip? State law dictates the minimum defensive driving course fee. Guaranteeing a “lowest price” is easy when offering a lower one would be illegal. Depending on your learning style or other personal considerations, an upgrade might be suitable but, in most cases, everybody’s “lowest price” will work for just about anyone, so trade shopping time for “get ‘er done” time.
If you still need a little more information before deciding, take a little time with “The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Texas Defensive Driving Course” from our friends at TexasApprovedCourses.com.
If It Please the Court, Let the Driving Record Reflect..
Completing a defensive driving course for ticket dismissal is a great kindness extended by the state, but not one they necessarily want you taking advantage of with great regularity. State law only allows for ticket dismissal with defensive driving once every 12 months, regardless of where in Texas you got it . If you are like most people, your commute takes you through multiple municipalities in the course of a single day. It is conceivable that one city could write you a ticket one day and another could nab you the next (or even same!) day. Unfortunately, only one would be eligible for dismissal with defensive driving, but that doesn’t keep lead-footed folks from trying.
To keep these folks honest, submitting a driving record to the court is a requirement of the dismissal process. When ordering a record, be sure to obtain the right kind. Turns out, Texas driving records come in a half dozen flavors; the one you want is a “3A.” Every defensive driving company can facilitate your efforts in getting one of these for the court. Your 3A can be mailed or transmitted electronically, depending on the company.
Even if you aren’t being compelled by your current legal situation to obtain a driving record, it’s good to review yours from time to time. Just like your credit report, nasty unknown surprises on your driving record can cost you.
Get Your %$*#^* Together
Just like a trip to the outhouse, your defensive driving adventure isn’t over until the paperwork is done. Courts like documentation, so make sure yours is in order to make things go smoothly as your journey comes to a close. This whole process will be fun enough without any last minute snags, especially if you’ve waited until the last minute!
Documents a court will require of you sometime during the dance:
- Valid drivers license
- Copy of current insurance policy reflecting required coverage
- Copy of your 3A driving record
- Certificate of completion from your approved defensive driving course
There may be other items that a particular court may require. For example, the City of Houston requires a notarized driver safety course affidavit. It is to be turned in along with the driving record and certificate of completion. The affidavit is a sworn statement that the driving record and defensive driving completion certificate have, in fact, been turned in. The court will even be kind enough to notarize it for you upon arrival for the low, low price of only $6!
Just as there is a specific driving record needed, you’ll also need to submit the right certificate of course completion. Your course provider will be delivering two versions of your certificate, a “court” copy and an “insurance” copy. It is vital that the right guy gets the right one.
It is vitally important that all of these steps are completed by the prescribed court date. The submission date is generally 90 days from the day permission to take the course was granted. While one would think that 90 days would be plenty of time, for many, it isn’t. Hey, we get it because, well, life. It’s not like taking defensive driving tops anyone’s bucket list and waiting until the 11th hour used to cause much added stress and expense to the process. After more than 40 years, a recent change in defensive driving law has led to a giant sigh of relief from procrastinators everywhere.
Since the inception of defensive driving, the state has had very strict guidelines as to the printing and distribution of completion certificates. Through the years, certificates had to be variously printed on specially treated or watermarked paper with required attributes to the printing itself. These attributes were invisible to the naked eye, but did serve to attest to the legitimacy of the document. It was also a requirement that certificates be delivered. The delivery could be performed by the USPS or, more expensively for the foot dragger, by an expedited courier service. These steps were instituted to combat fraud, of which there was a great deal.
Despite hundreds of monthly searches for “course online Texas printable certificate,” (people in a time crunch rarely type sensibly) alas, there were no matches to be found. Until November 2018, that is.
Years after the internet figured out how someone could securely apply for a credit card, open a bank account, or buy a house, car or kidney, the state finally ceded that it just might be possible to electronically transmit something as mundane as a defensive driving certificate. Damn the torpedoes, Texas. Full speed ahead! This is good news, speeders of Texas. If you speed because you’re always late getting things done, you can wait to get your defensive driving course done, too. Not that we recommend it, but at least with printable certificates, the cost of your citation won’t be compounded by a big additional payment to UPS or FedEx.
Oh, and remember how I mentioned an “insurance copy” of your certificate..?
Your New Side Hustle: Getting Tickets for Fun and Profit
So, coming to the end brings us back to the beginning. Remember how I mentioned how defensive driving could be profitable? Let’s touch on that for a moment.
We could devote a great deal of time here talking philosophically about the high costs of traffic accidents and how the stated goals of defensive driving include raising driver awareness so that accidents can be reduced. While many studies (and even studies of studies) have been done and copious statistics have been documented relating the positive effect that driver safety training has on reducing car crashes, that’s not exactly money in your pocket, is it? After all, you can’t exactly pay your cable bill with the money you didn’t spend on the accident you didn’t have, right? Let’s instead talk about cold, hard cash.
According to Business Insider, Americans spend an average of $125 a month on car insurance. There are a number of ways to reduce this expense, but one stands out in terms of ease and impact, especially at this particular time in your personal experience. Filing a defensive driving certificate of completion with your insurance agent can save you up to 10% on your coverage, and the benefit continues for three years. If you are fumbling for a calculator, let me save you the trouble—we’re talking $450 bucks, way more than you spent on court costs and a course. You’ve probably got enough left over to get something nice for yourself even after buying a thank you gift for the officer who got you here in the first place! Imagine the ROI you’d be enjoying if you hadn’t gotten a ticket in the first place. Taking defensive driving voluntarily for this kind of benefit is something everyone should contemplate, although many rarely do. In fact, many people who take defensive driving for ticket dismissal don’t ever bother submitting their completion certificates to their insurance companies. Don’t be “that guy!” Pay yourself for your trouble.
To Put a Pretty Bow on All of This…
Here below you will find everything you ever wanted to know about defensive driving, but just never knew you wanted to know until you got a ticket. Let’s start where you started.
I just got a ticket. What do I do now? – If you have recently received a traffic citation, your first step is to contact the court. Depending on the nature of the violation, dismissal may be possible. This is usually accomplished through the completion of a driver improvement course of some type. Depending on the locale, these courses can be referred to as defensive driving, traffic school or driver safety courses.
How long do I have to contact the court after getting a ticket? – Courts usually want to hear from you within 10-14 days after a ticket is written. Your final chance will be noted somewhere on your citation. Do wait 24-48 hours for your citation to be processed before attempting contact, but don’t miss the cut-off. The court is more sensitive than your mother about not calling…
What do I need to find out from the court about my ticket? – Chiefly, want they want from you. How much is the fine? When is payment expected? Does the citation qualify for dismissal? Most of these particulars can be determined on the court’s website. While finding your facts this way will save you both gas and face, make sure to follow their instructions about making contact. Many municipal websites allow you to electronically submit contact, others want to actually hear from you, either by phone or in person.
Should I try to fight my ticket? – If you truly believe that you received your ticket in error, you may want to dispute it. There are many opinions about about how this can be done , but the time requirement to overall benefit ratio is seriously stacked against you. Depending on your particulars, there is a chance that the net effect of having received a ticket could be money in your pocket. Besides, just because you were in the right this time, how many times were you just thankful that no officer was in sight when you pulled THAT stunt?
Is it possible to pay traffic tickets online? – Many jurisdictions and municipalities offer the convenience of online ticket payment. The question is whether the court that issued your ticket does. Probably the easiest way to determine that is to visit their website. If your court doesn’t have a website, I’m guessing the answer to the question in your particular case would be no.
What types of tickets can be dismissed with defensive driving? – Generally speaking, ticket dismissal via defensive driving is limited to moving violations—speeding, failure to stop, failure to yield and the like. If your inspection sticker is expired or you have a broken taillight, defensive driving can’t save you.
Can a red light camera ticket be dismissed with defensive driving? – While failing to stop at a red light is a moving violation, being caught running one by a camera actually constitutes a different category of citation. Instead of being a criminal violation it is instead a civil one. Being a civil violation, there is much debate whether you should pay red light tickets and one guy turned his fight of one into a first amendment court battle. Bottom line? For the purposes of our FAQ, defensive driving isn’t going to help you here, either.