Sometime in your defensive driving process, you may be asked to submit an affidavit. But what if you’re not sure what an “affidavit” is?
When it comes to Texas defensive driving, there are two different documents referred to as “affidavits,” and they are not required in all circumstances. Some courts require one defensive driving affidavit to begin a driver safety course, and defensive driving providers require the other to allow certain students to complete a course. Whether you need one will depend on factors like:
- The jurisdiction where you received your ticket
- Your state of residence
- Any recent changes to your license or automobile
As if this whole process wasn’t confusing enough already, right?
Read on to understand if you’ll need to provide an affidavit and which one you’ll need if you do.
Answers in this post:
VIDEO: What is a Defensive Driving Affidavit?
Which Affidavit Do I Need for Defensive Driving?
Before we get into the answer to that question, let’s take a closer look at the two different types of defensive driving affidavits that exist in Texas.
The first kind of affidavit is one that may be required by the court. Some cities (like Houston, for example) will ask you to submit a signed—sometimes notarized—statement attesting that you have not taken a driver safety course to dismiss a citation in the last 12 months. Basically, it’s your promise that, although you’re not beneath breaking the law to get a ticket, you are certainly above the idea of breaking the law about getting rid of one.
The fact that a court requires such a document is curious. These same courts will likely ask you to submit a copy of your driving record, and whether or not you have taken defensive driving in the last 12 months will be reflected there. Maybe they ask you to jump through extra hoops because, hey, sometimes it just feels good to swing your gavel around.
The second type of affidavit is the one required by defensive driving course providers. Could you be asked to submit one of these? That depends.
One of the demands placed on online course providers is to make every effort to confirm that the person completing the online course is, in fact, the person who received the ticket.
(Just an aside here, but would you volunteer to take defensive driving for somebody else? Seriously.)
The state requires online defensive driving courses to employ “personal identification questions” as a way to confirm the identities of their students. These questions are derived from information about the student’s license and auto registration that is entered prior to beginning the course. These questions may ask things like:
- What is the street address printed on your license?
- What is the first digit of your drivers license number?
- Do you drive a (insert car make and model here)?
These questions are then fact-checked against a state-maintained database where all of this information is stored. If a student answers enough of these randomly scattered questions incorrectly while working on the course, they have to contact the course provider. Unless they have a really good reason for not knowing where they live or what they drive, they will be locked out of their course and will not be allowed to finish.
There are reasons that the kinds of personal questions asked can’t be fact-checked. For example, if the student is the holder of an out-of-state license or has bought their car recently, the database may not be updated to that new information. So what are they to do?
These students will be required to submit the second type of affidavit. This affidavit will require the entry of some information, a copy of their drivers license, and a notary seal. This document will affirm to the driving school (and the state!) that the person taking the course is certifiably the right person.
So, depending on your particular set of circumstances, your answer to the affidavit question may be one or the other, both, or none at all.
How Do I Get Permission to Take Defensive Driving?
Before even getting to the affidavit question, you need to determine if you can even take defensive driving in the first place.
Generally speaking, a driver may ask the court for permission to dismiss their ticket with defensive driving in the following circumstances:
- They have not taken defensive driving for ticket dismissal in the last 12 months
- The citation was for a minor offense
- They are not the holder of a CDL
If these conditions are met, the driver is free to petition the court to take defensive driving.
To secure permission to take defensive driving, take the following steps:
- Appear at the court on or before the date shown on your ticket to enter a plea
- Obtain permission to take defensive driving
- Pay any associated court costs
- Take from the court any required paperwork, most importantly, the document that states the due date of your completion certificate
After that process, it’s time to find a course, get it finished, and get it back to the court.
What Should I Bring to Court When I’m Asking for Defensive Driving?
When asking the court to take defensive driving, you should have the following items in hand:
- Your license
- Your ticket
- A check or credit card to pay for court costs (if the court says yes) or for your ticket (if the court says no)
There is a reason that the court permits drivers to take defensive driving. And, unlike so many other things in life, it ain’t about the money.
The court does collect a fee when it allows a driver to take defensive driving, but it is usually far less than the face value of the ticket. So allowing drivers to take defensive driving actually costs the municipality money. So why do they do it?
When the state established the practice of offering driver safety courses for ticket dismissal, it really was to promote driver safety. In their estimation, a driver who completed defensive driving was far less likely to repeat the driving mistake that resulted in a ticket. They considered that the short-term gain of growing city coffers with full-priced tickets was short-sighted compared to the reduction of accidents and the overall improvement of the driving environment in the future.
Or, “down the road,” if you will.
How Much Does It Cost to Take Defensive Driving?
Your total out-of-pocket will depend on where you got your ticket. To begin with, different courts charge different court fees to take defensive driving. As for the course itself, state law sets the minimum cost for defensive driving at $25.00 dollars. You can pay more, but you legally can’t pay any less. You will also likely be required to submit a copy of your driving record, so there’s another blow to your bank account. If you procrastinate in taking your course, you can also add in the cost of expedited shipping to ensure getting your certificate back to the court on time.
On the other hand, you might want to consider the cost of NOT taking defensive driving.
In this scenario, you will start at the courthouse, where you will be required to pay the face value of your ticket. This fine is usually far greater than the court costs associated with taking defensive driving.
Your next expense is a bit of an intangible in the beginning, but it can be significant.
If you pay the ticket instead of taking defensive driving, points will be added to your driving record. These added points will result in higher insurance premiums for the next three years. According to the folks at Insurance.com, depending on your carrier and the severity of your ticket, your rates can increase by 3% to 79%, so there’s that.
Back to the cost of choosing to take defensive driving, there is money you can subtract from your initial cash outlay, making it an even more attractive alternative.
Many insurance companies offer defensive driving discounts. You are eligible to receive these discounts, even if you have received a ticket, and your defensive driving provider will make it easy.
After completing your defensive driving course, you will be issued not one, but two completion certificates. One certificate will be marked “Court Copy” and the other “Insurance Copy.” Get the right one to the right place, and you’ll be on your way to putting money back in your pocket. How much? Many drivers report that their savings cover the costs of taking defensive driving and, in some cases, come out ahead.
Imagine. Making money by getting a ticket. Maybe you should buy that cop a cup of coffee or, at the very least, send a thank-you card…