Why Do I Need a Driving Record for Defensive Driving?

by John Fabel | Last Updated: February 12, 2021

If you have recently received permission from a court to take defensive driving, chances are you were given a list of forms to return to secure ticket dismissal. This list of required documents most likely included a copy of your driving record.

Depending on your state, there are probably laws limiting how often or how many times a driver can take defensive driving for ticket dismissal. A driving record will reflect if (or when) a driver has used a driver safety course for this purpose. By requiring a copy of a driver’s record, the court can be assured that the driver is in compliance with the law.

But how does one secure a driving record and how can they be sure they’ve acquired the right one. We have your answers right here!

Answers in this post:

What type of driving record do I need for defensive driving?

Does defensive driving show up on your driving record?

What if I don’t finish my defensive driving course?

Do I have to pay ticket if I take defensive driving?

VIDEO: Why Do I Need a Driving Record for Defensive Driving?

Which Type of Driving Record Do I Need for Defensive Driving?

On an episode of the original Muppet Show, Kermit, frustrated by a string of missteps by another character, turns to the character and asks, exasperated, “What kind of idiot are you?!?” “What kind?” came the response. “I didn’t know I had a choice.”

Type 3a driving record

Since ordering your driving record probably isn’t something you do every day, you’re probably not aware that the state can supply you with different versions of your driving record. Each of these tell your driving story in a slightly different way and serve different purposes.

In Texas, for example, there are six different driving records available for order:

  1. (Type 1): Status Record – Lists name, date of birth (DOB), license status, and latest address.
  2. (Type 2): 3-year History Record – Lists name, DOB, license status, list of accidents and moving violations on record within past 3-year period.
  3. (Type 2A)Certified 3-year History record – Certified version of Type 2. This record is not acceptable for defensive driving courses.
  4. (Type 3)List of All Accidents and Violations on Record – Lists name, DOB, license status, list of all accidents and violations on record.
  5. (Type 3A)Certified List of All Accidents and Violations on Record – Certified version of Type 3. This record is acceptable for defensive driving courses.
  6. (Type AR)Certified Abstracts of Driving Record – Certified abstract of complete driving record of a license holder.

I’m not sure why the state has so many ways to chronicle your driving past.

At any rate, if the court is asking for your driving record in conjunction with dismissing your Texas ticket, better get ’em a “3A.”

If you are dismissing a ticket in another state, I can only hope that your state makes it less confusing.

You should also know that nearly every defensive driving provider will have instructions on their site as to what type of driving record you will need to acquire to satisfy the court. In fact, most will provide you a way to get the record ordered through their site. Why not leave it to the guys who do this every day since most of us clearly do not?

(back to questions)

Does Defensive Driving Show Up on My Driving Record?

If you are attempting to dismiss a ticket, you certainly want it to. As we said before, the “3A” version is the one that will get that done in Texas.

When dismissing your ticket, the court must ensure that you are in compliance with state law. The traffic legal codes of most states include provisions regarding the number of times and how often drivers can use completion of a defensive driving course to get a ticket dismissed. If the court did not require a copy of your driving record as part of the paperwork of your filing, it would be guilty of not following the mandates of the state.

Your driving record will reflect if you have taken defensive driving and, if you have, whether it was taken for ticket dismissal.

Some people have more questions about this whole “Does it show up on my record” business, namely—

  • “Should I order a copy of of my record before or after completing my defensive driving course?” and
  • “If the record shows why I took defensive driving, will my car insurance go up because of the ticket?”

The best advice for the first question is that you should order your driving record before you complete your course.

If you order your driving record after you receive your certificate of completion, it may reflect that you have taken defensive driving already. Although the chances that the state could have your record updated that quickly, why risk it? If the court believes that you have already taken defensive driving for ticket dismissal, you may be denied the privilege of making your ticket go away.

As for the second question…

Most insurance companies will pull a driver’s record to initiate a policy and again at renewal time. If a ticket is reflected on the record, the insurance company will increase the policyholder’s premiums, sometimes significantly. You certainly don’t want that happening, so what’s a fellow to do?

To put your mind at ease, insurance companies are happy when their customers take defensive driving, no matter what their inspiration was for doing so. Why? Because insurers understand that drivers who have completed a driver safety course are statistically less likely to be involved in accidents. Since less accident claims from policyholders means more money for them, they are ecstatic any time someone completes a course.

Some states may make you choose whether you want to use your defensive driving course “credit” for ticket dismissal or insurance premium reduction. In Texas, you can use it for both. Upon completion of a defensive driving course, the course provider will present you with two certificate copies, one marked “Court” and the other “Insurance.” Make sure you get the right one to the right place and you should be good to go.

Two more pieces of advice here…

  1. If you have taken defensive driving for ticket dismissal, don’t let your “Insurance” copy go to waste. Get that copy to your agent and start keeping some of your hard-earned money in your pocket instead of putting it in his.
  2. Don’t let the fact that you haven’t gotten a ticket prevent you from taking defensive driving for an insurance discount. Taking an “insurance only” version of defensive driving won’t take away your right to take a course for ticket dismissal. Yeah, you’ll have to take the course again, but it will keep your record clean.
(back to questions)

What If I Don’t Complete Defensive Driving?

must complete defensive driving

The fact that the court gives offenders up to 90 days to complete defensive driving is both blessing and curse. on the front end, the length of time given brings the relief of not having to do something you’re probably not crazy about doing right away. 90 days is like a million years from now, right?

The problem is, the further one gets from the initial court instructions, the greater the chance that they will forget it has to be done at all.

Having worked for several defensive driving companies (and having been a defensive driving student myself, on occasion), I understand how easy procrastination can lead to not completing a course.

The court takes a pretty dim view of those who don’t follow its instructions. To them, 90 days means 90 days. Failure to complete defensive driving can result in a court summons, additional fines, or both.

Fortunately, if you do find yourself remembering at the last minute, there are ways to get a course completed in a hurry. Doubly fortunate is the fact that the state has finally entered the 21st century and now accepts Texas defensive driving with printable certificates. Until that change in the law occurred, the state required completion certificates to be delivered to students of both online and in-person classes. This meant that many students faced paying $30 to $40 dollars more for their courses to cover the expedited shipping.

Even with the advent of printable certificates, our advice would be to just get it over with as soon as you can and save yourself the stress.

(back to questions)

If I Take Defensive Driving Do I Still Pay the Ticket?

still pay ticket with defensive driving?

You broke the law. Think you’re getting out of this scot-free?

One of the nice things about dismissing a ticket with defensive driving is that you don’t have to pay the face value of the ticket. The court will assess a processing fee for extending the privilege of taking defensive driving, but that price tag is usually far less than the face value of the ticket.

This kindness won’t only be more wallet-friendly now. With the insurance savings you can enjoy after completing your course, you could wind up making money on the deal. You just might want to buy that nice officer a thank-you cup of coffee…

(back to questions)

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.