Can You Skip Defensive Driving Videos?

by John Fabel | Last Updated: 2024-01-24

If you are an avowed lifehacker faced with the prospect of taking defensive driving, you are most likely looking for a way to outfox the system and get it done faster. But, as with everything else you’ve ever put your hand to, you have the inner confidence that you can get it done faster, smarter, and easier than anyone ever has before.

The fact is that you can skip the videos in a defensive driving course. However, some safeguards that the state has put in place make this a pretty poor idea and will result in you spending more, not less, time completing your course.

Answers in this post:

Why are there videos in online defensive driving?

What are the risks of skipping defensive driving videos?

How many hours is an online defensive driving course?

What happens if you don’t complete defensive driving?

VIDEO: Can You Skip Defensive Driving Videos?

Why Are There So Many Videos in an Online Defensive Driving Course?

Once upon a time, defensive driving could be completed one way and one way only. Getting the task done required traveling to a classroom and sitting in a roomful of strangers for six hours to earn the certificate you needed. While some of those classes could be fun, most left you feeling that you had really paid your dues.

The time requirements for defensive driving were never meant to be punitive. Texas just wanted to make sure that all students were subjected, ahem, presented, all of the required material. Keeping students confined to a classroom under the watchful eye of an instructor helped them feel confident that this was happening.

defensive driving boring

Classroom defensive driving has been around a long time. I taught the course myself about 20 years ago and began taking the course for my own tickets about 20 years before that. Finding a course that lined up with your schedule was a little tricky, but we had phone books to help with the search.

Then, Texas approved ADMs. These “alternative delivery method” courses freed students from the confines of the classroom. Now you could run to Blockbuster (if you’re under 30, Google it, I don’t have time to explain) and spend an evening with your VCR learning about safe driving techniques.

Online versions were also available then, too. That meant that instead of plopping on the couch with a remote, you could spend half again more time yelling at your computer, waiting for videos to buffer.

Oh yeah, defensive driving videos. That’s what this post was supposed to be about…

Understanding that “a picture paints a thousand words,” the state figured a moving picture could paint even more. Because of this understanding, all online defensive driving courses must contain a minimum of 90 minutes of video by law.

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Skipping Defensive Driving Videos: Not as Helpful as You Might Think

Giving up the control of instructors in the classroom to students who might want to cut corners was hard for the state. They understood that there was a small chance that a classroom student might manage to block out an instructor’s voice and that there was no way that same student was going to read every word of an online course. Enter the video.

Hold on. I can already hear what you’re thinking. “How can the state be sure that those non-reading students will watch the videos?” 

Here’s where the state came up with a cunning plan.

Somehow foreseeing today’s generation of code-breaking URL hackers, they inserted one more little requirement that effectively keeps people from skipping videos. This requirement is ingenious in its simplicity. After every video that is a minute in length or more, the student must answer a question.

That being said, it is conceivable that a student could skip a video and still answer a multiple-choice question about it. After all, you still have a 1-in-4 chance, right? However, since the worst that can happen is getting the opportunity to watch the video again, I guess that makes it worth the risk?

By the way, there are videos and somewhat confusing blog posts explaining how to breeze through defensive driving in minutes, not hours. Before you get all excited, bear in mind that these posts are over five years old, and most states have required defensive driving providers to go back into their courses and build in systems to safeguard against these types of hacks.

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How Long is Defensive Driving?

When I asked Google, “How long does it take to take defensive driving?” the “People Also Ask” feature box said four hours. While that might be true in other states, it certainly ain’t true in the ol’ Lone Star.

State law requires Texas driver safety classes to be six hours long, whether the class is taken online or in person. The state recognizes that the chances of retaining information that comes to you in an uninterrupted barrage are slim to none. It’s like taking a drink from a fire hose.

This understanding of the human mind and how it operates led the state to the decision that one of those six hours comes in the form of breaks. So if you morph the question “How long is…” to “How long will I be learning defensive driving,” the answer is five hours.

Like we’ve already said—If you have a flexible schedule, enjoy social interaction, and are perhaps a bit of an extrovert—an in-person, classroom version of defensive driving may be just the thing for you. If you decide to go this route, remember that you will be engaging with the curriculum virtually non-stop for the class duration. You will have breaks scattered throughout to mill around and maybe meet some new people, but you are obligated to stay there from start to finish.

For this reason, even if you are an extroverted, socially adept person with abundant free time, you may still want to consider online defensive driving.

By taking defensive driving online, you can do more during your break time than making awkward small talk with strangers or avoiding them while intensely pretending that you are captivated by the classroom’s decor. Instead of being stuck, you are free to use the breaks to get things done or footle around on the interwebs. Of course, you will already be at your computer, right?

What’s more, if you’ve had about all you can stand of defensive driving, you can walk away for 10 minutes (or 10 days) even in the middle of a lesson and pick up right where you left off. Try that in a classroom, and the instructor’s gonna get his feelings hurt.

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But What If I Walk Away Too Long?

missed defensive driving deadline

Ever heard the phrase “I stopped for a minute to think, then never started again?”

One of the dangers of interrupting yourself in the middle of a task you may not necessarily want to do in the first place is that you may never return to it. You know that this is true. Skip a couple of workouts, and it might be weeks before you return to the gym.

If your “extended break time” has resulted in missing your deadline, the first thing you’ll want to do is contact the court and, as they say, throw yourself on their mercy. Of course, you might get lucky and catch the judge on a good day, and he will be kind enough to extend your “due by” date. In fact, that’s the outcome you really want to hope for. Otherwise, you’ll wind up paying your ticket (and potentially additional fines) and end up with a costly ding on your driving record. Not only that, but you’ll also be kissing goodbye to the cold hard cash you shelled out for the course.

Our advice? Once you’ve signed up for a course, keep a reasonable pace and GET IT DONE.

(back to questions)

The longer you wait, the longer 'til it's over...


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John Fabel

I 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.