If you've been naughty in New York and earned a citation, you should know that the state uses a license points system. (You probably noticed this when the state took a few of those points away from you.) Like programs in other states, the general idea behind the points system in New York State is to keep a log of just how bad your behavior is so that your license can be suspended when you reach full hoonigan status. As you build up points, you inch closer to taking the bus to work and having to pick your date up on a Schwinn.
So here you are. You've lost a few points, you're full of regret and woe for not driving like a grown up, and you're wondering if there's a way to forestall the day your license is cut in two by the man. There is! You can attend a traffic school, a.k.a. defensive driving course, either online or in person. We hope you'll learn a thing or two.
We have detailed information below on why we liked these traffic schools, but to cut to the chase, here are the top three:
The New York State points system applies a varying number of points to your tally depending upon just what type of infraction you have committed ranging from rolling through a stop sign to jumping the General Lee across the Hudson. For example, if you are cited for driving 1 to 10 MPH over the posted speed limit, you are assessed 3 points. 31 to 40 MPH over the limit you get 8 points. If you break the land speed record you get the full whammy – 11 points. Coincidentally, 11 points are the number that you need to lose your license. For fans of Spinal Tap, "This one goes to eleven."
New York State realizes you may need some time and opportunity to build up enough points to get to the full suspension total of 11, so it gives you a very reasonable 18 months. (Why not annually? Who knows?)
To give you even more of a head start on the points program, New York is kind enough to include points on your New York license for infractions you commit outside of New York. That is amazing customer service!
Car Talk reviewed the chart that New York State provides to help you understand the rules of the game. Our favorite combination of the infractions that we can realistically imagine is this; You are traveling 11 miles per hour over the speed limit entering a rotary, say 36 in a 25 zone. You just so happen to be looking at your phone because – well, there is really no good reason, but a lot of folks do it. As you enter, you merge ahead of another vehicle already in the rotary. Say a car moving at about 14 miles per hour driven by a person in welding goggles with their mouth open. An officer sitting in a new Ford Interceptor Utility behind a tree in the center of the rotary sees this and pulls you over.
Your full points total if convicted on all violations in traffic court will be 4 points for speeding, plus 3 for failing to yield the right of way, plus 5 for the use of a portable electronic device. This is a perfect storm of citations that is easy to envision. Heck, we have witnessed it happen on many occasions during our daily commute. That total is not just 11, it is 12 points in one day. Your license will be gone in a flash – unless you complete an approved traffic school. Do you see the value yet?
In addition to the revenue that New York and its fine residents will enjoy from your citation itself, there is another fee called the New York State Driver Responsibility Assessment Fee, or NYSDRA for short. (Well, not that short.) Let's call it the sting tax. The sting tax is generally $100, but it can be higher. And it is to be paid each year, for the three years following your infraction. (Why not 18 months? Again, we have no idea). You need to pay this. Failing to do so will result in your license being suspended. Why does New York say they have this added fee? The NYS DMV says, "The purpose of the assessment is to prevent the repeated behavior of problem drivers and to improve traffic safety." Call us crazy, but we thought the fine, and the court fees, and the insurance surcharges, and the points system were all about that. New York felt so strongly about this program's benefits that it teamed up with another country to enforce them. That's right, tickets you get in Canada will also sting you in New York.
If you've accumulated points in New York, luckily the state runs a program called the Internet Point and Insurance Reduction Program (IPIRP). IPIRP allows you to reduce your points by taking courses online. The New York State traffic schools can help you to reduce your point total. If you complete the course, you will have 4 points removed from your balance. The rules allow you to take the course every 18 months. So it makes sense to take the course as soon as practical following being awarded points.
You cannot "bank" these point reductions with the idea of pulling a Baby Driver some time down the road. In other words, you cannot store up 24 point deductions over six years and then lead the police on a high-speed chase through Manhattan expecting to be able to apply them to your future total. Which is a shame for the 24 hour news cycle, if nothing else.
Taking the course has two added benefits. The first is that you might receive an insurance discount. This depends upon your insurer. We get enough manifestos sent to us at the office of Dewey Cheetham, and Howe, so call your agent or insurer before you take the course and ask whether it will apply to your specific policy and situation.
Second, if you take the course, you might just learn something and become a safer and better driver.
One thing a New York State Traffic School cannot do for you is earn you back your license after the state has taken action to suspend or revoke it. Do not expect that simply completing it will restore an already revoked license. The traffic school points reduction scheme only works for you before the DMV revokes your privileges. You need to be proactive and get in and out of the course before you hit the magic number and a traffic court judge takes action. So get moving, bucko.
Listen, Mario Andretti, these courses are not the SAT. Most of the folks who sell them say you are "Guaranteed to pass" and there is "No exam." With that rigorous format, how can you not become a better driver?! The good news is that this is a slam dunk type of course where you view little videos, read some pages, and click the tab after enough time has passed to move to the next page until you are done.
If you really want to take one in a classroom you can. It is 320 minutes long and the proctor is Mr. Hand. Jeff Spicoli will be eating a pineapple pizza next to you. You can get the official list of classroom-format providers at the New York DMV page here. If you are like almost every other New Yorker, you will take this on your phone, Kindle, iPad, or whatever the cool kids use these days.
Expect to pay about $25 for a New York State approved traffic course. If you really do get a "10% guaranteed insurance premium reduction" it is a screaming deal.
The best online traffic schools in New York are those that are registered with and approved by the state and which have high ratings. A full listing of online and alternative format classes can be viewed at the DMV's page here. We had a team of MBAs take each course and then use a 39 point grading system to determine which are best. Or we look closely at the reviews and ratings. Here is a list of highly-ranked companies that we have vetted in the past and which offer courses of this type in multiple states.
In general, we were looking for schools that had exemplary ratings with the Better Business Bureau, had strong ratings on social media sites or other ratings agencies, and provided online instruction.
iDriveSafely.com iDriveSafely.com has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. It received a 4.6 out of 5 star rating with TrustPilot. For $24.95, the site promises an online course that will reduce up to four points from your driving record and get you a 10% discount on your insurance.
TrafficSchool.com TrafficSchool.com has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. It received 4.9 stars out of five with ShopperApproved. For $24.95, the site offers an online course approved by the state of NY to reduce as many as four points from your license and provide a 10% insurance discount.
New York Safety Council New York Safety Council received a B+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. It received 4.6 out of five stars from ShopperApproved. Like the other two courses, it offers its online course for $24.95, which must be mandated by the state. What's a little sketchy is that they suggest they're offering it at a discount from $48, but if the price is state-set, that $48 is a myth.
Save time and money with online classes
A: Traffic school or defensive driving school is a service provided by a third party that allows a driver to either reinstate a suspended license, or reduce insurance surcharges that have been assessed because of a traffic ticket or a reportable accident. The terms are interchangeable, as some companies call it traffic school and others refer to it as defensive driving school.
A: Yes, New York allows you to take traffic school from the comfort of your laptop.
A: Every traffic school we looked at is offered at a price of $24.95, leading us to surmise that the price has to be set by the state of New York.
A: The state of New York requires 320 minutes of instruction to reduce points and insurance costs. That equates to about 5.3 hours.
A: New York allows drivers to reduce up to four points by completing traffic school.
A: Yes, one of the other benefits of taking an online traffic school in New York is that you may be able to reduce the cost of your insurance. Taking a class could result in a 10% discount on your car insurance, depending on your insurance company and policy.
Taking classes online is often faster and cheaper than the classroom.