So you’ve found yourself with a ticket (yuck), you’ve paid all your court costs (double yuck), and now you can’t wait to jump into a little defensive driving (yeah, right.) If you’ve never done that last part before, you may be unclear on how to get started.
Step one to taking a driver safety course is to sign up for one. This, of course, begins with deciding how you’d like to take defensive driving—online or in-person. Unfortunately, finding classrooms that offer live defensive driving is tricky these days, especially if you live in a more rural area.
On the other hand, a quick Google search for “defensive driving Texas” will return roughly a kazillion results. Each one will require you to enroll in their course, a procedure that will be much like signing up for anything else, like Netflix or an Amazon account. You will likely be asked to submit personal information data like:
- Mailing address
- Email address
- Drivers license number
- License plate number
- Credit card information
Signing up for defensive driving is easy, but there are some important steps to follow before, during, and after your course. Mistakes in these steps can result in the court not accepting your completion certificate and leaving you to pay your ticket and your driving record taking a hit.
Answers in this post:
VIDEO: How Do I Sign Up for Defensive Driving?
How Do I Know If I Am Eligible to Take Defensive Driving?
You’ll need to take some steps before you even need to sign up for defensive driving. Importantly, you will need to get permission from the court to take it. But, even before that, you must determine if you should bother to ask.
Generally speaking, drivers can get permission from the court to take defensive driving in the following situations:
- The driver has not dismissed a ticket with defensive driving in the last 12 months.
- The citation was written for a minor traffic violation. These infractions include things like—
- Running a stop sign or red light
- Failing to yield
- Following too closely
Permission to take defensive driving will NOT be granted if:
- The speeding ticket was issued for traveling 25 miles over the posted limit or in excess of 95 MPH.
- The ticket was issued for passing a school bus.
- The ticket was issued in a construction zone with workers present.
- The ticket was issued to a driver who is a holder of a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
I would like to say that you don’t have to get a ticket to be eligible to take defensive driving. Taking a course voluntarily and submitting your completion certificate to your insurance company can put some real money in your pocket.
If the Court Says Yes, How Long is a Defensive Driving Course?
How long a defensive driving course lasts depends on where you got your ticket. Different states have different time requirements. So the time you’ll spend could range from as little as four to as many as eight hours.
In Texas, state law mandates that defensive driving courses be a total of six hours in length. These six hours include five hours of instruction and testing accompanied by one hour of breaks. You can alleviate some of this discomfort by taking an online version of the course. Doing it this way allows you to log in and out of your course as often as you would like, allowing you the flexibility to tailor your course to fit your busy schedule and can make the six hours not feel like six hours.
A word of caution here: Some people think they will benefit from an online course because they possess a certain skill set. They believe that by being a fast reader, they will be able to get the necessary information faster than having to wait for an instructor to give it to them out loud. Unfortunately, speed reading won’t save you in this situation. The state requires all online defensive driving courses to be outfitted with timers to ensure that all students receive the full six hours of goodness.
How Much Is It Going to Cost Me to Take Defensive Driving?
Again, the answer to this question depends on where in the USA you received your citation. There are states where price wars between defensive driving companies have driven the cost down to $5.00 dollars or less.
When Texas first approved driver safety classes, the state set a minimum price of $25.00 dollars for the course. While there are some situations where it is worth it to pay a little more, you never want to pay any less. Therefore, a defensive driving provider that offers their course for less than $25.00 dollars is likely not TDLR-approved, and your time and effort will be repaid with a certificate of completion that the court won’t accept.
If you are taking defensive driving for ticket dismissal, there are other expenses beyond the cost of the course itself, things like:
- Court fees
- Purchase of a driving record
- Potential need for expedited certificate delivery
While there isn’t much you can do about the first two list items; the last one is totally in your control. The only reason you would need to pay a defensive driving company’s ridiculously inflated charges for expedited delivery is if you wait until the last minute to complete your course. Our advice? Just bite the bullet and get it done sooner rather than later.
By the way, you should also know that Texas allows you to “double-dip.” You can use the same course for ticket dismissal and an insurance discount. It could very well be that the insurance dollars you keep in your pocket over the next three years will cover the expenses listed above with money to spare.
Before we go on, you should also consider what it may cost you NOT to take defensive driving.
- Paying the ticket – The face value of nearly every citation is much higher than any defensive driving-related court fees, sometimes by a factor of two.
- Higher insurance premiums – Having a ticket on your driving record can substantially increase your auto insurance premiums, and you’ll be paying those higher rates for the next three years
How Long Do I Have to Complete Defensive Driving?
Out of curiosity, I threw this question into my search bar, and this “Featured snippet” appeared, courtesy of TicketSchool.com:
You must complete the course within 180 days from your date of registration…”
And here is where I say something shocking: Google doesn’t know everything.
To be fair, Google probably doesn’t know why I was asking that question. The answer that the “Great and Powerful Oz” served up refers to the amount of time TicketSchool.com is going to keep an account active. Go beyond the six-month mark, and they’ll keep your money and make you sign up again.
As for the reason that you’re probably asking, “How long…”
Most courts in Texas require a defensive driving certificate of completion to be returned to them within 90 days to complete the ticket dismissal process. Failure to meet this deadline may result in higher fines, a court summons, or both.
There is a quote that says…
“Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow just as well.”
Another twist on this quote is as follows…
“Never put off till tomorrow what you can avoid altogether.”
Scholars (a.k.a. guys with too much time on their hands that probably lead fairly dull lives in the real world) argue over the authorship of these quotes. Was it Mark Twain? Oscar Wilde? I don’t have a dog in this fight, but either quote is bad advice to follow when it comes to taking a defensive driving course.
If you have received permission from the court to take defensive driving, get signed up and get going. You don’t want to miss out on getting that ticket to go away!
The longer you wait, the longer 'til it's over...