If you’re faced with taking a defensive driving course, you’re probably dreading the idea of being locked into a task you likely aren’t very excited about for six hours. Getting up the courage to “take your medicine” is one thing, but for six hours?!?
The good news is that you can pause an online defensive driving course and avoid the need to block out the better part of a day to get the job done. Although the course is still six hours long in the virtual world, you have the freedom to jump back to the real world as often and for as long as you’d like. In addition, the ability to pause your defensive driving course offers you the flexibility of completing it at your own place and at your own pace.
Answers in this post:
How long does a defensive driving course last?
Who can take a defensive driving course?
Can I take a defensive driving course before my court date?
Is defensive driving the same as a driver safety course?
VIDEO: Can You Pause a Defensive Driving Course?
How Long Does It Take to Complete Defensive Driving?
The state of Texas requires that a TDLR-approved defensive driving course be six hours in length. While there’s no escaping the law, how you take the course will definitely affect how long that six hours feels.
A defensive driving course has five hours of instruction with one hour of breaks. If your schedule is flexible enough to take a classroom course, you will be given breaks throughout. You will have the opportunity to grab a snack and/or drink and to mingle and chat with your fellow speeders but remember: You will still be there, in the same spot, for six solid hours.
This is where the beauty of an online course comes in. With an online course, you are not faced with the prospect of being glued to your device non-stop for the better part of a day. Instead, if you’d like, you can stretch a 10-minute break into a 10-day one.
As the old proverb says—
“You’ll still be eating that elephant a bite at a time, but spreading those bites out to finish him off beats shoving it in until you’re ready to explode.”
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Can I Take Defensive Driving?
More important than the question of whether or not you can pause a defensive driving course is whether you can even take one at all. Generally speaking, a driver is eligible to take defensive driving for ticket dismissal only if:
- The citation was written for a minor traffic infraction
- The driver has not dismissed another citation with defensive driving in the last 12 months
- The driver is not a holder of a Commercial Drivers License (CDL)
For example—Some drivers have a fairly subjective opinion about speeding. Is driving five miles per hour over on the highway really that big of a deal? When would a speeding ticket move from “minor” to “major?”
The state has cleared that up. Ticket dismissal is not allowed for speeding tickets written for traveling more than 25 miles over the posted speed limit or over 95 miles per hour.
There are other citations that some drivers might consider minor that aren’t viewed that way by the state. For example, if a driver speeds through a construction zone with workers present or passes a school bus, they will have to settle for paying the fine.
That being said, judges do have some level of discretion here. For example, drivers who have received citations that might be considered in a gray area between “minor” and “major” could still be granted permission to complete a driver safety class to dismiss their tickets. All you can do is ask; a judgment in your favor could be worth hundreds of dollars.
Alternately, if your ticket is “major” enough, taking a defensive driving course may become part of your court order, in addition to paying the fine and having points added to your record.
Bottom line? Just do your best to follow the traffic laws, and you won’t have to spend your time searching the internet for answers to questions like these.
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Can I Take Defensive Driving Before My Court Date?
As often as this question is posed to Google, I’m not sure how the all-knowing search engine can figure out how to answer it.
The “Featured snippet” of this inquiry, provided by Driver Training Associates, says this:
So if you are not familiar with the process, in Texas when you get a traffic ticket, you will be given a court date which you must appear in person or contact the court on or before that date to either dispute the ticket or let them know if you plan to just pay the fine, take a driver safety course…
The problem with this answer is that there could be two different days on the calendar that could be called “court dates” during your post-ticket experience. These would be:
- The date on your citation by which you must appear in court to enter a plea, and
- The date the court gives as your completion date for defensive driving
The answer to one of these questions is certainly yes. The answer to the other is definitely not.
It makes sense that the matter of getting your homework done by the court’s due date is something you absolutely want to do. It is the answer to the second question you don’t want to get wrong.
You do not want to walk into the court to enter your plea and casually mention that you have a driver safety completion certificate and, if it please the court, could we just get on with dismissing my ticket?
The fact of the matter is, if you so much as enroll in a defensive driving class before that court date, you’ll likely forfeit the privilege of dismissing your ticket with defensive driving.
Dismissing a ticket with defensive driving is always a good step to take, but, just like in the schoolyard when you were a kid, you have to say, “Mother, may I?” first.
(back to questions)
Is a Driver Safety Course the Same Thing as Defensive Driving?
As with many things, the official term for something differs from what it is commonly known. So, for example, what a biologist would casually refer to as Canis familiaris, you would probably just call Rover.
In the state of Texas, the terms “driver safety” and “defensive driving” both refer to the same thing: a six-hour, TDLR-approved course that can be used for ticket dismissal and insurance reduction.
I am not entirely sure why the courts still refer to this course as driver safety while the industry (and the general public) almost always use the term defensive driving. Maybe because average speakers like to shorten things or to speak more informally. After all, look at how much time you save by saying, “I have to take defensive driving” instead of “I have to take a driver safety course.”
When it’s all said and done, a course by either name will smell just as sweet when it makes your ticket go away.
(back to questions)
John FabelI have a long and checkered history with defensive driving. I took my first "court invited" course at age 15 and realized immediately that there had to be a better way. Since that first experience, I have gone on to teach defensive driving classroom courses and to author four internet courses in 2 states. After nearly 25 years in the industry, I can help you find a course that will be the best fit for you.
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