All of these online traffic school vendors were on the SOS of Michigan’s approved courses list:
|Starting Price We Found Online|
|American Safety Institute Inc||$49|
|Traffic School Online||$34.95|
|American Safety Council||$34.95|
|Improv Traffic School||$19.95 + $17.50 state fee|
|Michigan Driver Improvement||$34.95|
|National Safety Council||$34.95|
For a complete list of courses approved by the SOS of Michigan please see the State’s website.
The Michigan Basic Driver Improvement Course (BDIC) is a neat way to keep your costs of bad behavior in vehicles under control. If you’ve been acting badly behind the wheel you need to know how this State of Michigan program works and how it saves you money.
The State of Michigan is the intergalactic headquarters for muscle cars. One of Car Talk’s colleagues residing in Michigan lives across from the GM proving grounds and owns a 707 hp SRT Challenger Hellcat. That’s his daily driver. He also owns some other fast cars. He explained to us that in this area, there are no “twisty country roads.” It’s a grid, and the straightaways look a lot like dragstrips in many places. As he explained it, performance in America was forged by this convergence of local high-performance vehicle manufacturing and straight roads with lots of room to run. The inevitable result is traffic tickets. Lots and lots of traffic tickets.
The tickets hurt you two ways should you earn one. First, you need to pay the ticket, court costs, and fees related to your infraction. The Michigan BDIC cannot help you avoid those costs. Don’t do the crime if you can’t pay the fine. However, like all states, the insurance companies in Michigan are allowed to penalize you as well for your infraction. Those insurance surcharges make the original fine look small. That’s where the Michigan BDIC comes in.
In most cases, if you received a “normal” traffic violation, and we're not setting a land speed record or committing a crime, the Michigan BDIC can help you offset those added insurance costs. The best news is that you won’t have to sit inside a musty old building with the “Group W” folks from Alice's Restaurant talking about what high crimes and misdemeanors you all committed to get there. Though that would make for a good story at Thanksgiving.
The Michigan BDIC can be completed online, and it costs you a lot less than the insurance company surcharges will. This is a classic example of spending money to save money, and the government is on your side. In fact, the Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) is the head of this program, so it must be on the up and up. Presently, the Secretary of State of Michigan is Joceyln Benson. Before she was elected, Ms. Benson attended Wellesley College, Harvard, and Oxford. As a lawyer, she was once a legal assistant to Nina Totenburg at National Public Radio (where Car Talk has aired for decades). That makes her OK in our book.
Before we tell you what it will cost, let’s look at what it cannot cost by law. According to the Michigan SOS, the course must be priced at “less than $100.” Car Talk fired up our Blackberry Bold and did a quick bit of research on the actual cost of the program and found that it ranged from $29.95 at iDriveSafely.com to $35 pretty much everyplace else. We will skip the four-tab Lotus 123 spreadsheet of costs since the span of prices is about the same as a venti macchiato. You can rest assured that the multi-year insurance surcharge is a hefty multiple of that thirty bucks.
Save time and money with online classes
The list of offenses that you can commit and then still qualify for this insurance-offset program is impressive. Here is a quick rundown of the ill-advised things you can do and still qualify:
These are just the highlights. The bottom line is that unless you and your moll Bonnie Elizabeth Parker have been on a five-state, high-speed chase, this program will likely be your salvation. Here is a link to the full list of infractions you can consider if interested.
The SOS of Michigan clearly has your interests in mind. To avoid any confusion about who is eligible, the Secretary is going to mail you a letter if you qualify and tell you that you do. Once she sends you that letter you will have 60 days to complete the course. Or forever hold your peas.
The official rules of the course outlined by the state say the course must take four hours to complete. Unofficially, reviews of the courses reveal it actually takes less time. Be prepared for one of those “Watch this video and then wait a while to answer a few questions,” type of courses.
This is one-time remediation. If you’re a habitual traffic offender, these courses aren’t going to help and you’re going to rack up all kinds of points and surcharges. Our advice? Slow down. Where’s the fire?
Car Talk dug into the approved vendor listing to check some references. The first one we checked out was the Improv Comedy Traffic School. We did so based entirely on the fun name. The Yelp reviews reveal that the school is rated 3.5 stars out of five, but that the majority of users rated it 5/5. We could not find any evidence the course was funnier than others.
Car Talk suggests checking your selection at the Better Business Bureau. Also, Yelp has some helpful information. Reviews there are posted by date, so you can read the most recent ones first. Yelp’s reviews also have detailed descriptions of the course and the user’s impressions. Bear in mind that many low scores could be the result of user error accessing the site, or impatience. Users post negative reviews more often than positive ones. Remember, some of the folks taking this class are doing so because they opted out of a breathalyzer.
If you really want to show up in person and take the BDIC, the state of Michigan has 31 locations at which you can do so. The sites span from Calhoun to Kalamazoo. Why anyone would do so rather than use a phone to complete it while also watching Tiger King and eating Bon Bons on the couch is beyond our comprehension.
For more information on the Michigan BDIC, please check out the full Q&A section on the State of Michigan SOS’s office site.
Save time and money with online classes
A: Roughly four hours.
A: It is a program that offsets insurance surcharges from one driving offense.
A: Best to check with your insurance provider to be sure.
A: You’d be crazy not to.
Taking classes online is often faster and cheaper than the classroom.