How Does Defensive Driving Work In Texas?

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

Whether you have recently received a ticket or got one sometime in the long ago past, you might be wondering if defensive driving can help. In a word, yes. How? Read on.

In Texas,  you can use a defensive driving course (a.k.a “a driver safety class”) to dismiss minor traffic violations. Completing a defensive driving course can also be used to earn a discount on certain car insurance coverages, with or without receiving a citation.

Answers in this post:

How Do You Check if You are Eligible for Defensive Driving in Texas?

How Many Hours is Defensive Driving in Texas?

How Long Do I Have to Complete a Texas Defensive Driving Course?

How Many Times Can You Take Defensive Driving in Texas?

Do You Have to Get a Ticket to Take Defensive Driving?

VIDEO: How Does Defensive Driving Work In Texas?

I Just Got a Ticket. Can I Take Defensive Driving?

Step one in the “getting rid of your ticket dance” is to make sure your situation or circumstance makes it OK to even ask.

READ: Can Defensive Driving Dismiss Your Texas Ticket?

In most cases, you are eligible to take defensive driving in the state of Texas in the following situations:

  1. Your ticket was for a minor moving violation.
  2. Your ticket was not written in a construction zone.
  3. Your ticket was not written in a school zone or for passing a school bus.
  4. You have not dismissed a ticket with defensive driving in the last 12 months.
  5. Your driver’s license is not a CDL.

A speeding ticket is counted as a minor moving violation, as long as you were only “minor-ly” speeding. For example, suppose a driver is clocked at 25 miles per hour over the posted limit or traveling in excess of 95 mph. In that case, they will be disqualified from taking defensive driving for ticket dismissal purposes. The court may still require such drivers to take the class, though, in hopes that it will teach them to slow the heck down!

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How Long is a Texas Defensive Driving Course?

How long does it take to complete defensive driving

The TDLR (Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation) requires all defensive driving classes to be six hours long. So before the very thought of facing six hours of something you don’t want to do makes you throw up your hands and “just say NO,” let me tell you that it won’t be as bad as it sounds.

For starters, one of those required six hours comes in the form of required break time. Understanding that the brain can only absorb as much as the backside can endure, the TDLR builds in breaks to give you the chance to hopefully retain some of the stuff you learn along the way.

As for the remaining five hours of the course, it really can go by rather quickly, especially if you pick a good one. The most important thing is to choose a format that works best for you. For example, if you have a flexible schedule and like to meet new people, consider taking defensive driving in a classroom. On the other hand, if your free time is a bit more limited, the flexibility of an online course may be your best option.

READ: Can Defensive Driving be Done Online in Texas?

Online courses have options to fit your learning style. Many providers offer read-along or 100% video options if you aren’t the type who loves to read. These options may cost a little more, but that tiny upgrade may be worth it to save your sanity.

A word to those who do love to read, if I may. Most book lovers have sharpened their ability to read quickly with no loss of comprehension. However, I’m afraid that carefully crafted skill is of no use to you here. The state requires that every page of the course features a timer to ensure you stay in the course for the required amount of time.

My suggestion would be to lay your favorite novel beside your computer while you work through the course. That way, you can keep caught up on your favorite characters while waiting for the timer to wind down. 

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

How Long Will the Court Give Me to Complete the Course?

In nearly every jurisdiction, drivers are given 90 days to complete a defensive driving course and return their documentation to the court. Besides a certificate of completion from the course provider and any court-generated paperwork, you will likely also have to submit a copy of your driving record.

Before you ask, the court requires a copy of your driving record to make sure that you were truthful when you signed the statement avowing that you hadn’t taken defensive driving in the last twelve months. Taking defensive driving does prevent the addition of a moving violation to your record. However, the type 3A driving record the court will request will reflect that there are no tickets on your record because you have taken defensive driving.

So what happens if a driver fails to complete defensive driving in 90 days? Depending on the municipality, you may be assessed further penalties, be required to pay the ticket at face value, and, almost certainly, have that ticket placed squarely onto your driving record.

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How Many Times Can I Take Defensive Driving?

The law says that you can take defensive driving once every twelve months for ticket dismissal purposes. Because of this, I suppose your answer comes down to how much longer you depend on driving.

While that answer came off snarkier than I intended, it’s true. Not every state is like Texas. Many states limit how many tickets you can dismiss with defensive driving.

That being said, please don’t make it a life goal to take advantage of the state’s kindness. I’m a Texan, too, and would just as soon not share the road with a driver who can paper his den with completion certificates.

READ: Can You Take Defensive Driving More Than Once in Texas?

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Can I Take Defensive Driving Without a Ticket?

Absolutely. In fact, it would be the better way to go. With potential insurance savings of 2-10%, taking a defensive driving course voluntarily is a smart use of your time. Spending $25.00 dollars for a course could earn you $25.00 dollars an hour for the six hours you’ll spend taking the course. That $25.00 dollars an hour gets even sweeter when you consider that one of those hours is an hour of break time!

Even if you have received a ticket, taking a defensive driving class will often cover all of the associated court costs, usually with money to spare. Imagine how much happier your wallet would be if you didn’t have to share those savings with that smug little city and its sneaky speed trap…

(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.