By John Goreham, December 05, 2019
In the state of Texas, you can save on automobile insurance policies by completing a state-approved defensive driving course. If you are facing a judge for traffic violations, you may also be able to dismiss tickets by taking these courses.
Let's start with the recommendations. If you're looking for an online defensive driving course, these are our top choices:
Top 4 Online Defensive Driving Schools in Texas
Traffic School and Texas
Unlike some other states, Texas does not have a defined "traffic school program" that it mandates that drivers attend in order to wipe the slate clean after they have been off galavanting about in their motor vehicle. If you lose your license for some offenses, it will be restored by the courts and Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) after the prescribed suspension and after the renewal process is completed. However, there are classes that drivers in Texas can attend in order to save some automotive insurance costs and to possibly help with minor traffic issues that end up being handled in court. Before we dive deeply into those it is important for readers to be up to speed on a significant change to the laws in Texas regarding surcharges.
Surcharges and the Driver Responsibility Program
If you are one of the 600,000 Texans who was hit with a surcharge for having traffic violations, listen up. The state changed its laws this past September first (2019) ending the much-despised Driver Responsibility Program (DRP). The program was dreaded by many Texans for adding additional annual fees to the price of tickets. You no longer need to comply with the law's mandates and your surcharge is now wiped away by this popular new change to the law.
The new law ending the hated DRP was signed by Texas governor Gov. Greg Abbott in June. After 16 years of frustrating Texans with its fast-acting penalties ranging from $100 to $2000 depending upon how Dukes of Hazard one's violation was, the new bill doesn't just end the program going forward, it also clears the surcharges already imposed.
DRP Ends - Now What?
That means that up to 600,000 Texans are no longer burdened with fines that could last years or more and prevent them from renewing their driver's license in the state. "It's hard to overstate the harms of the program," Emily Gerrick, senior staff attorney with the Texas Fair Defense Project told the Texas Tribune. "It created this really horrible cycle for drivers who lost their license because they couldn't afford to pay the surcharge. And then kept getting more surcharges because they didn't have their license."
If you are a Texan who made a recent surcharge payment, don't expect a refund. The law does not have any provision to pay anyone back. However, those with outstanding surcharges and financial penalties for non-payment have had those balances cleared as of 9-1-19.
1.5 Million Texans Now Eligible For License Reinstatement
More significantly, drivers whose licenses were suspended as a result of nonpayment of the surcharges are now eligible to renew their license. These folks fall into two camps. About 600K drivers whose fees and suspensions stem solely from the Driver Responsibility Program will either immediately be eligible to have their driver's licenses reinstated. In addition, another approximately 350K will be eligible to get their license back by paying a $100 reinstatement fee. Drivers who think they fall into one of these two lucky categories can check their status on the Texas DPS website. The state says that those whose licenses were suspended for less than two years may be able to renew online. However, those with a longer period will need to start back at the beginning and pass a written, driving, and vision test in order to get the license back.
OmniBase Holds Still In Effect
The new changes to the law also impact about 350K other Texans with license issues. If you have had your license suspended it would be wise to look into getting it back in light of the new changes to the law. In total, over 1.5 million Texans will benefit from this new change to the law.
Those drivers who lost their license for not paying parking fines and for not showing up for court dates under the OmniBase Hold management system will not be eligible to renew as a result of these new changes to the DRP.
Texas Defensive Driving Schools
One way to pay a little less on your automobile insurance policy in Texas is to complete a defensive driving program. Insurance companies in Texas are not required to offer discounts for policy-holders who attend these schools. It is optional for them. Still, many are reported to do so. If you are considering purchasing and completing a defensive driving course in Texas, we advise you to first check with your insurer to be certain there will be a payback on your time and money.
Texas Driving Schools and the Courts
The folks who provide these defensive driving programs also claim that they can help you to avoid paying fines on minor traffic offenses. Not the big ones like driving drunk, driving at light speed, or big-time shenanigans. More like minor speeding. The state of Texas does not offer a lot of details on how such a program works in its state on the DPS website. We would urge caution for anyone who thinks that taking a course in advance will earn them leniency after an offense makes it way to court. Rather, if the court suggests a course in trade for negating the penalties of a ticket, listen up. You may also want to suggest that if you find yourself in your Sunday finest pleading for mercy in front of a judge.
What Types of Texas Defenses Driving Courses Exist?
You won't be sitting in a classroom making spitballs while taking a defensive driving course in Texas. Instead, you are going to be sitting wherever you like making spitballs while the course is conducted with your interaction on a device. Preferably not while you are driving.
- Phone Apps: Let's face it, this is what most of us want to use to take a defensive driving course. Not a fan of a three-by-five screen? Opt for the next choice.
- Online Courses: Take your Texas defensive driving course while sitting in front of a computer, tablet, or laptop. Have the larger screen and maybe a keyboard and mouse to help you handle the menus.
- Media Drive Courses: Want to kick it old-school and have a course sent to you to be played in a media drive like a DVD? You'll find that option if you look hard enough.
How Much Should You Pay For a Defensive Driving School In Texas?
We scanned the deals online and found that courses for defensive driving in Texas usually cost about $25. Not bad considering that is less than even the most basic of traffic fines. And way less than the value of the discounts the folks that sell these courses suggest your insurance company is dying to give you. Again, check before you commit.
Which Are the Top-Rated Defensive Driving Schools In Texas
How bad can they be for $25? Well, worthless is the answer. Be certain that you opt for a school that your insurer approves of in advance. Taking one as a court-related deal? We suggest asking for guidance there.
Below is our list of the courses we suggest you consider. This list is based on a few factors. The first is name recognition. We have been researching courses like these for residents in all of America's states. If we've researched and approved them for other states, that gets our attention. Reviews are also important. We scan reviews of these courses to see what the folks who took them had to say.
Here is a list of those courses that we found met our Car Talk standard for consideration:
Aceable offers traffic school in California, Texas and Defensive Driving Courses in Florida, and clearly states their license numbers for each of those states on the website. Aceable has been rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau, has a 4.9 star rating on Trust Pilot.
This company is one that offers courses of various types in various states. iDriveSafely.com makes some pretty simple promises. These include being accepted by Texas traffic courts, a 100% pass rate, and being the "shortest course in Texas available by law."
This course has a 4.7/5 rating from a huge list of those who have completed it. Like many such courses, it is available in both English and Spanish and claims to be approved by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR).
This course has high ratings and claims an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
Texas Traffic School Q&A
Q: What is a Driver Improvement school?
Driver Improvement school is a service provided by a third party -- approved by the state of Texas and its Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) -- 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.
Q: Can I take a TDLR-approved course online?
Texas allows vendors to provide traffic schools online and in the classroom as a means of reinstating a suspended license or reducing points.
Q: How much does online traffic school cost?
All of the courses we looked at that were approved by TDLR were $25.
Q: How long does it take for online traffic school?
Courses approved by Texas for dismissing traffic violations or removing insurance surcharges take six hours.
Q: I reduce a speeding ticket fine with a defensive driving course?
Yes. In Texas, the course is designed to help both reduce fines and eliminate points from your license
Q: Can I dismiss a ticket with the course?
Yes, in certain cases, Texas allows drivers to have tickets dismissed if they take the course.