California has more than 175,000 miles of roads, providing ample opportunity for drivers in the Golden State to find themselves on the wrong side of the law.
Speeding is what gets most drivers in hot water, and if you're on this page, chances are you already know that tickets not only bump up your points tally, they can impact your insurance rates, and even lead to a license suspension. You want to keep your points count as low as possible.
Choosing the Right Traffic School
Before you shop for a California traffic school, you'll want to determine if you qualify for the program's benefits. Here are a few of the rules around it.
- Unsurprisingly, you'll need a valid driver's license.
- You can't be a repeat offender, at least not within the past 18 months.
- Your moving violation must fall within the guidelines. For instance, getting lassoed at more than 25 mph over the limit would exclude you.
- You gotta pay all the fees. If you have unresolved court costs or appearances, you'll be declined.
Reference California Rules of Court. Rule 4.104 for a complete listing of qualifications and applicable judicial discretions.
You'll also want to confirm that the school you're considering is certified by the state to help eliminate the one point applied to your record if you declined this route. The California DMV website has a complete list of approved schools to check against your choice.
By the way, your infraction can't be more than one point - for instance, if you were cited for reckless driving along with speeding. Anything more than one point isn't eligible, which is yet another reason to continually practice moderation behind the wheel. If you don't, your problems can multiply.
The 3 Course Formats of California Traffic Schools
The California DMV allows you to complete your traffic school requirements in three different course formats: classroom, home study or online.
- Classroom Course: If you choose this option, you'll attend a classroom at a predetermined time and put in a full eight hours there before you can take the quiz at the end. This may sound like grade-school drudgery, but there is some benefit from in-person instruction, and the vast array of schools catering to all kinds of population subsets means that classroom traffic school might actually be a way to tear yourself away from the screen and go sit with people like you for a while.
- Home Study: Going this route means having your course materials mailed to you, or you go pick them up. You'll likely need a computer or media player to access the CDs or DVDs you'll receive, but you won't need internet access to complete the course on your own.
- Online: With everything from shopping to dating going online, it's no surprise that traffic school has maximized the internet to make itself more modular and freely accessible. Some online providers offer an interface that can be paused on a computer and then picked up again on a smartphone, which allows you to absorb the information in piecemeal portions.
Top 3 California Online Traffic Schools
How We Selected the Top Online Traffic Schools
It's essential to confirm that whatever traffic school you're considering is within the California DMV's "Occupational License Status Information System." Yes, that's a mouthful of bureaucratic officiality, and it means is your school must be listed in the database of certified providers. The California DMV website has a complete list of approved schools.
Prices for California traffic schools start at less than $10 and can end up five or six times that, depending on the amenities the school offers. Choose according to your budget, and take comfort that even the priciest California traffic schools are much less expensive than the insurance ding your extra point will bring.
Sometimes when researching California traffic schools, we came across websites that seemed amateurish and maybe a little sketchy. After filtering for apparent credibility, we then checked all the sites we've recommended against Google's Transparency Report.
We refined our traffic school recommendations to those that are popular on the web, (as evidenced by number of users) and have at least 90% positive reviews on customer feedback websites, and where applicable, top ratings with the Better Business Bureau.
- $5 Bucks Traffic School. We start with the one that sounds like it should be a hard pass. Are you really going to trust a company that charges so little with something as important as a point on your license? Gotta be a scam, right? But we found consistent high praise for this online traffic school, which was established in 1998 and is based in Van Nuys. Five stars on Yelp, 4.9 out of five stars on Facebook, and 4.8 stars out of five on Google show consistent customer satisfaction, with many reviews affirming that it all really can be done for five dollars. Additions like audio recordings are available to tailor the learning experience.
- Trafficschool.com. This coveted domain name is owned by a company in Chatsworth that cranks out the customer plaudits like they were going out of style. Established in 1994, trafficschool.com's coursework offers an audio component, and many reviews mention the ease of learning the material. It gets an A+ from the Better Business Bureau, and the reviews are raves, with five stars on Yelp and 4.9 out of five stars on Facebook and Google.
- Aceable.com. We covered Texas-based Aceable in our list of nationwide online traffic schools, and we include it here because of its top ratings - A+ by the Better Business Bureau, and a 4.9 star rating on Trust Pilot. Aceable's investment in technology has produced highly-rated apps on which to study; the AppStore has it at 4.9, and it's 4.7 on Google Play.
Traffic School Q&A
Q: What is traffic school or defensive driving school?
The term "traffic school" is key in California, as it defines the courses that are approved to mitigate your infraction. "Defensive driving," on the other hand, can encompass a variety of curriculums, so stick with programs using the official term. The California DMV website has a complete list of approved schools if you're in doubt.
Q: Can I take a DMV-approved traffic school course online?
Yep, residents of the state Silicon Valley calls home have many choices in online traffic schools.
Q: How much does online traffic school cost?
California-approved online traffic school prices start at less than $10 and generally stay comfortably below $100, so you're not going to break the bank. The cheapest ones typically get a bit more expensive when you add extras that the pricier programs throw in for free, like course printouts.
Q: How long does it take for online traffic school?
California requires eight hours of traffic school classroom instruction, but online study can go at your own pace. You just have to pass the quiz at the end.
Q: Can I reduce a speeding ticket fine with traffic school?
In California, the fines and fees are unaffected by traffic school; you still have to pay them. The main benefit of traffic school is to keep the resulting point off your driving record.
Q: Can I dismiss a ticket with traffic school?
In California, you'll still have to pay for the ticket, but successful completion of traffic school will erase it from your record.
Q: Can I earn an insurance discount with traffic school?
There may be an California-servicing insurance carrier that offers a discount on insurance premiums following the completion of traffic school, but it would be news to us. If you're curious, check with your provider to see if they do. Otherwise, traffic school is mainly there to wipe minor infractions from your record.
Q: What is the difference between traffic school and defensive driving courses?
Defensive driving courses in California are typically skill-enhancing programs with a certain focus, like teen or senior drivers. In this state, "traffic school" has a very specific purpose for drivers who have earned a minor infraction and want to keep it off their future driving record.