A Comprehensive Guide to Defensive Driving Courses in Texas

Page Updated On: March 01, 2021

If you are issued a traffic citation in the state of Texas there are basically three options that are available to you.

What are your options when you get a speeding ticket?

  1. You can either plead guilty and pay the fine.
  2. Plead not guilty and request a trial.
  3. Plead guilty and request to take a defensive driving course to dismiss your ticket.

Let's go over these options one by one:

The first option of paying the ticket is by far the easiest, but it is probably the most expensive in the long run. The major consequence of a traffic violation is the ticket being stamped on your driving record. This will without a doubt result in an increase in your auto insurance premium, this may cost hundreds of dollars more for you on your next insurance bill and this option will definitely cost much more in the long run. Your car insurance premium will go up 22% to 30%, on average, after a speeding ticket, according to a rate analysis by CarInsurance.com.

The second option is to fight the ticket in court or seek to negotiate it. There are a couple of different scenarios that can lead to your ticket dismissal if you choose to contest your ticket. First, if the officer who issued the ticket does not show up in court, your ticket will be dismissed. This is a great result as you avoid paying the fine and your traffic citation is dismissed. This, however, does not happen very often because the officers issuing you the ticket usually show up to the hearing as it is their job and are happy to do so because of a possibility of overtime pay. Second, if you have strong evidence to convince the judge that the officer issuing the ticket made a mistake, your ticket will be dismissed. This is also highly unlikely as the officer usually has recorded evidence of your driving offense with electrical devices that they are equipped with. Therefore, it is an uphill battle to confront the officer and change the judge's mind.

The third option may take a little bit of effort, however, in my opinion the best choice. First, you avoid paying a fine even though you may have to pay some administration fees, which is a much smaller financial burden. Second and most important result is that this option is a guaranteed way to getting your ticket dismissed. This means that the ticket will not show up on your driving record. Your auto insurance premium will not be affected. In fact after completing your defensive driving course you can negotiate with your auto insurance provider for a better rate.

Are you eligible to take a Defensive Driving Course and dismiss your ticket?

Your traffic citation usually provides details on how to apply to get your ticket dismissed. You need to plead no contest or guilty with your traffic court and pay any court fees. You must then request permission to take a defensive driving course to dismiss your ticket. To be eligible to take a defensive driving course to dismiss your ticket you must possess a valid drivers license or permit and have auto insurance or adequate proof of financial responsibility. You are ineligible to if you are,

  • Speeding more than 25 mph over the posted speed limit.
  • Have, taken a driving safety or defensive driving course in the last 12 months.
  • Charged with reckless driving.
  • Involved in a hit and run.
  • Charged for passing a school bus.
  • Charged for violations in construction zones when workers were present.
  • Have a commercial drivers license.

In my opinion if you are eligible, you should always take a defensive driving course and dismiss your ticket. Apart from the obvious benefit of getting your ticket dismissed and not showing on your driving record, there are several advantages of taking a defensive driving course. After successfully completing a defensive driving course you will be able to negotiate a better rate on your auto insurance policy. Taking a defensive driving course shows your insurance provider that you are taking proactive steps to become a good driver. You will be rewarded with a lower rate for your efforts on preventing car accidents and collisions, a win-win outcome for you and your auto insurance company. The defensive driving course is also useful on its own in multiple aspects: there may be some driving rules you may not be aware of before; some driving tips may improve your driving skills; and some statistics you may find surprising and interesting. After all, the defensive driving course is designed to make you a defensive driver and prevent you from getting another ticket in the future. Generally, people become more conscious of driving safely and are more responsible for themselves as well as other drivers on the road after taking a defensive driving course. Consequently, this leads to reduced car accidents and collisions.

What is the difference between a Defensive Driving Course and Driving Safety Course?

There is sometimes confusion between the terms defensive driving course and driving safety course. In Texas, the official term for the course that can help dismiss your traffic citation is Six Hour Driving Safety Course. In several other states the course is referred to as Defensive Driving Course. The aim of a driving safety course is to make you a defensive driver and thus the name has stuck. In fact, most drivers prefer to use the term Defensive Driving over Driving Safety.

How to choose the Best Defensive Driving Course?

In the state of Texas nearly 5 million speeding tickets are issued each year. So, getting a speeding ticket in Texas is something every driver has been through at some point. About 10% of these unlucky drivers turn their fate around and get their ticket dismissed by taking a defensive driving course. If you are reading this, I assume you are one of the few people who are taking matters into their own hands by taking a defensive driving course and getting your ticket dismissed.

There are hundreds of defensive driving schools in the state of Texas, some offering regular classes and others offering online classes. Taking a regular classroom course is a thing of the past. Less than 20% of the certificates issued are through in person classes and this number is shrinking every year. Since you are reading this page you are already equipped with the technology required to take an online course. If you were to ask me about my preference, I prefer taking online courses as they are convenient and can be taken anywhere, anytime and at whatever pace you might be comfortable with. Most onlines courses can be completed on any electronic device including your smart phone, tablet or personal computer. Now if I have sold you on the online course, the difficult part is choosing the right course and more importantly what criteria to use while selecting a course provider. The criteria that I think are most important to consider before choosing a defensive driving course:

How to choose the Easiest Defensive Driving Course?

The Texas Department of Licencing and Regulation (TDLR) has jurisdiction over approval process of a defensive driving school that can issue a certificate to dismiss traffic violations. TDLR has clear guidelines on the structure of the course and minimum course content requirements. The topics that are required to be covered in a defensive driving course are:

  • Traffic Safety Problem - This topic includes discussion on the major reasons for crashes and traffic crash statistics in Texas and the United States.
  • Factors Influencing Driver Performance - This lesson discusses the physical and mental state of a driver and how it can affect their performance on the road. For example, being tired or distracted with personal problems can affect your ability to concentrate on the traffic conditions on the road.
  • Traffic Laws And Procedures - This lesson covers all the traffic laws and procedures that you as a driver must be aware of. Several important topics like speed limits, railroad crossing rules and pedestrian safety are discussed.
  • Special Skills For Difficult Driving Environments - This topic covers how a good defensive driver adapts to various conditions on the road like: inclement weather, traffic congestion, and driving in reduced visibility
  • Physical Forces That Influence Driver Control - In this lesson there is a discussion of the physics of driving. For example, how the speed and size of your vehicle affects the stopping distance. Also how this distance is affected by the weather and road conditions.
  • Perceptual Skills Needed For Driving - This lesson covers how to use your senses namely visual, hearing, touch, and smell to better be alert to the traffic and your vehicle condition and how to use these skills to effectively avoid a crash.
  • Defensive Driving Strategies - This topic teaches you about some of the common mistakes made by drivers, how to avoid those mistakes and how to compensate for the mistakes of other drivers.
  • Driving Emergencies - This lesson discusses strategies on how to use to avoid collisions. This topic also covers how to respond when faced with a mechanical malfunction like brake failure, flat tire, light failure etc.
  • Occupant Restraints And Protective Equipment - The lesson discusses the importance of seat belts and wearing a helmet. Important topics like dangers of leaving children unattended in your vehicle are also discussed.
  • Alcohol And Traffic Safety - This topic discusses the physiological, short and long term effect of alcohol use. It is emphasized that no amount of alcohol no matter how little or legal is safe for driving. Legal aspects of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs are highlighted.

As set by TDLR the topics and course material are pretty much the same for all defensive driving courses. The difference comes from how these topics are presented in the course and how the course makes these topics interesting to learn and keeps you as a student engaged in the course. Another measure of difficulty of a defensive driving course are the quizzes and exams required to pass the course. TDLR does not require a course to have a final exam, however, it is required that each lesson has a quiz at the end and that there are at least 50 question asked during the entire course. To pass the course it is required that you score at least 70% on these quizzes.

How long is the Texas Defensive Driving Course?

TDLR has also set a minimum time requirement for the entire course. The defensive driving course should be at least 6 hours long, this includes a total of one hour in breaks. They also provide recommendation on the length of time a student needs to spend on each of the topics. See the table below:

TDLR Recommendation on Minimum Time Per Topic
Course Section Time (minutes)
Introduction 10
Traffic Safety Problem 15
Factors Influencing Driver Performance 20
Traffic Laws And Procedures 30
Special Skills For Difficult Driving Environments 20
Physical Forces That Influence Driver Control 15
Perceptual Skills Needed For Driving 20
Defensive Driving Strategies 40
Driving Emergencies 40
Occupant Restraints And Protective Equipment 15
Alcohol And Traffic Safety 40
Other Topics And Exams 35
Total Time 300

The table shows that a student should be able to complete the entire course in 5 hours. In my opinion, if you are a fast reader and are able to retain most of the information you read you should be able to finish a well laid out course in 5 hours. If you wish to complete the course in the shortest time allowed by law you should ignore the gimmicks offered by various online defensive driving schools like video course, funny videos etc. Generally videos limit your ability to go over the topics at a fast pace and would only allow you to finish the course in the time of the videos plus the time required to take the quizzes.

What does it cost to complete a Defensive Driving Course?

The state of Texas has also set the minimum price that a school needs to charge for a defensive driving course. The defensive driving course must be at least $25. Since all the online courses are competing for the same students, they all offer their course for the lowest price of $25. However, there could be several additional costs added to the course if you do not do your due diligence and make sure what the total cost of getting a defensive driving certificate will be. Since saving the financial burden of paying your traffic citation is the reason for taking a defensive driving course, it is important you know what the entire cost of the course you choose is going to be. Some the costs that you need to consider are,

  • Cost to receive a certificate: You might think that once you complete your course you will receive you certificate instantly, however, this is not always the case. Some schools charge for instant certificate download. If you want your certificate soon you have to consider the cost of instant download or express delivery.
  • Cost of receiving a driving record: The court requires you to get a Type 3A driving record and present it along with your defensive driving course certificate. All course providers offer to retrieve your driving record for you, but you need to know upfront what those costs are. In Texas you can get your driving record here for $12. If you decide to get the driving record through a school, the school will probably charge additional fees to handle this for you.
  • Certificate replacement: Sometimes you have to get a replacement defensive driving course certificate because of incorrect student or court information. The cost to replace sometimes could be as high as $25. You should make sure you have all your information entered correctly when you register for the course.

Final thoughts on Defensive Driving Course

In my opinion no one takes a defensive driving course by choice. Most people are forced into it because they are in an unfortunate situation of getting issued a speeding ticket or a traffic citation. Therefore, it is important that you carefully look at all the options available to you. Even if the school offers their defensive driving course for $25, make sure that this is the total price you will pay to get your defensive driving certificate. Online course providers are creative in making prospective students believe that they are the cheapest course and once you enroll into the course they list several additional fees that you need to pay to get your course completion certificate. I am not going to name schools here but there are prominent schools that only offer mail-in delivery of the course completion certificate included in the cost of the course. They are also very vague on the time it will take for you to receive the certificate. Most students enrolled in these courses who want immediate certificate delivery will either pay for instant download or expedited delivery that incurs additional fees.

The strategy of online defensive driving course providers or online schools is simple, promise the easiest, shortest and lowest priced course and get you to register for the course. Once you have registered, it is highly unlikely that you will drop out of the course, request a refund and choose another course. Think about it like this, if you have registered and started the course you are already invested in the course. Even if you spend 30 mins on the course and are disappointed by your choice, you have already completed about 10% of the course and will push through and complete it.

Defensive Driving Course Recommendation

I have reviewed several defensive driving safety courses and I have one course that stands out among the rest of the courses. If you want the easiest driving safety course that you can complete in the shortest amount of time allowed by law, at the total minimum cost of $25 and no additional hidden fees then you should go to Fast Track Defensive Driving.

Completing a defensive driving course even if not by choice will make you a better driver. This can save countless lives including you, your loved ones and fellow drivers sharing the road with you. By making this choice you will also be rewarded by your auto insurance company for taking proactive steps to become a better driver a win-win situation for both you and your auto insurance provider.