by Ken May
The easy way to start with this question is to state that if you have attended traffic school within the past 18 months, you can’t go again. With that being said, I always tell clients that they absolutely should attend traffic school if they are eligible to do so.
There are two reasons for this. First, let’s follow the money. If somebody receives their first ticket, they may think “how bad can it be on my insurance”. It can be plenty bad. Depending on your insurance company, a first ticket can add anywhere from $80 to $200 to your auto insurance premium every six months. Using the low end of $80 (most companies are closer to the higher end of $200), that’s $480 over the three years that the ticket will be on your driving record. Whether you go to traffic school or not, you still have to pay for the ticket and the costs of traffic schools are pretty cheap these days. Why lose all that money when you have an opportunity to keep the ticket from showing up on your driving record?
The second reason is due to the Proposition 103 good driver discount. Prop 103, which was voted on in 1988 states that all auto insurers in the state of California must abide by certain rules. One of those rules pertains to the 20% good driver discount which all companies writing auto insurance in this state must give to any driver that qualifies.
To qualify, you are allowed one minor violation or one at-fault no-injury accident within the past three years. If you have two or more tickets, a ticket and an at-fault accident, or an at-fault accident with injury within the past three years, you are ineligible for the discount. Also, if you have had a major violation within three years such as a reckless driving ticket or going over 100mph, you do not qualify for the discount. If you have had a DUI within the past 10 years, you cannot receive the good driver discount (it used to be 7 years but legislation sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) lengthened the time period. There can also be so driver’s license suspensions within the past 3 years.
“I only have one ticket so I receive the good driver discount. Why should I go to traffic school”? Again, see reason #1 above. Not only is there a huge cost involved but you also lose some of your cushion. What if I received a ticket and went to traffic school and received another ticket within 18 months? The second ticket will count against you but at least you don’t lose your 20% good driver discount. The second ticket is financially a killer!
A third reason worth mentioning is if you don’t qualify for the good driver discount, you won’t qualify for most preferred driver programs. This means that you will end up paying a lot of money to be in a standard or non-standard program with a standard or non-standard insurance company. In this case, at least stay with a good independent agent that won’t take advantage of you or victimize the unknowing.
One last thought. I received a minor violation on 11/19/2015 (my first ticket in many years). I paid the ticket and decided to attend traffic school in person because I didn’t want my auto insurance screwed up over this! I was told that 90% of the people attend traffic school online. I signed up with a DMV approved traffic school, read each of the modules, passed all of the quizzes, and then passed the final exam. I paid a few extra dollars to be notified by the court that they received the completion certificate and confirmed that I passed the course so that I know that the ticket won’t appear on my record. The course was actually interesting, timely, informative, and easy.
So in conclusion, if you receive a ticket and can go to traffic school, you should do so! I did.