Before we get started, let’s clarify some terminology. A defensive driving course can be called many different things:
- Driving safety course
- Defensive driving school
- Accident prevention course
- Driver improvement course
- Traffic school
It’s important to understand, though, that most of these terms refer to the same thing: a course of study designed to help an already licensed driver improve her or his skills. So how do you choose the course that’s right for you? Here are five considerations.
1. Online vs. In-class
The first big differentiator between courses is how they are offered. Traditionally, defensive driving courses are offered in classrooms. Attendees travel to the location of the class, and sit for the required duration (sometimes as long as 8 hours!) and then complete an exam to receive a certificate of completion. But almost all states now allow drivers to take a defensive driving course online. While some people still prefer the social arrangement of gathering in a common location, the convenience of an online class can’t be understated. First, an online defensive driving course doesn’t require you to be in a single location. Many courses are now mobile-friendly and tablet-friendly. This means you can start the course from your desktop at home and continue it on your mobile phone while waiting at the DMV, your doctor’s office, in line at the grocery store. Second, online defensive driving courses doen’t require you to take them at inconvenient times. Rather than giving up an entire Saturday or Sunday to completing a driver safety course, you can do it at a time convenient for you. Of course, one advantage to the traditional classroom is the presence of a licensed instructor in the room so you can ask questions and get immediate feedback. Ultimately, whether you choose an online or in-class course is a matter of personal preference.
2. Your Goals
Before making a purchase of any course, make sure that it meets your goals. Most drivers take a course for one of three reasons. The first reason is driver improvement. Accident prevention matters. It matters to the long-term health and safety of us and our families. To this end, make sure that the course offers high-quality instruction and that the provider has experience creating quality courseware. The second reason people study defensive driving is to reduce insurance premiums. Some insurance companies will offer a reduction in your insurance premiums for voluntarily completing a course. Your insurance agent will be able to tell you if you qualify. Finally, a third reason people take these courses is to dismiss a ticket. Such a course may need to be court-approved or state-approved. If you are trying to get your ticket dismissed, ask your court clerk before taking a course for such a purpose.
While many defensive driving courses online are now video-based, this doesn’t always mean the same thing. Are these simple animations using an outdated style? Or are you seeing state-of-the-art courseware that uses modern animations, text-overlay, drone footage, dashboard cameras, and other rich media that can help you better understand how traffic safety works? Make sure you look carefully before you buy. Some online course providers advertise a defensive driving course at a low-price, only to saddle you with 4, 6, or even 8 hours of reading. Want that text read aloud to you? That’s another $5. Want to see some video? Another $8. DriveSafe Online does not believe that 8-hours of reading has a dramatic effect upon driving skills. We do believe, however, that drone-footage of traffic, 3-D animations, dashboard cameras, and other media, combined with high-quality interactive components, can help you become a more defensive driver. So before you buy, read the fine print, take a free demo, and make sure that your online defensive driving course provider is giving you the product you expect and that you need to become a safer driver.
Why are some courses 8 hours, while others can be completed in as little as 1? The reason for this variation has a lot to do with state certifications or insurance discount requirements. For example, a course approved by the state of Idaho is required to be 6 hours long, but a course approved by the state of Tennessee is only required to be 4. As part of your research, it’s important to understand if a course is required to be of a certain length in your state. But it’s not quite that simple. Some insurance companies in states like Georgia do not required an online course to be state-certified to receive an insurance discount. If these courses are not subject to state regulations, they don’t necessarily have to be lengthy to help you meet your goals. This is why DriveSafe Online offers a full-video, mobile-friendly, 1-hour defensive driving course online. For many customers, a single hour is enough to get a discount, or even dismiss a ticket.
Why does one company only charge $20 while another charges $40 or more? Can these two courses really help customers meet the same goals? The answer to this question is often “yes!” Some companies, because their name recognition, may choose to charge more. Or, some companies may offer their courses at a higher price because of a special certification, or because they have to pay for the expense of a classroom for their in-class option. Still others will advertise an attractive price for an online course, but then tack-on additional charges for audio, video, and then charge again for the certificate! (In case you’re wondering, DriveSafe Online does not approve of this hidden-fee model. We believe in single price point for your entire purchase. And we believe in a no-questions-asked refund if the course doesn’t meet your goals. But, let’s get back on track!) It’s important to do your research before simply assuming that you need to pay an expensive price to a big-name company for your defensive driving course. It’s also important to note that just because a company’s name sounds official, does not mean that they have a government-approved course. Look carefully at a couple different companies, read some FAQs, verify that the course is what you need, that the instruction is of sound quality, and then decide based on price.
We know that the selection of a defensive driving course remains a difficult one. We hope that these five criteria will make it easier for you to select a safe driving course in the future. And regardless of whether you choose DriveSafe Online or some other course to meet your defensive driving needs, we hope everyone learns the skills required to drive defensively, drive safe, and prevent accidents.
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