The fine and court costs for a traffic offense are not the only expenses. Most drivers are aware that a traffic ticket can affect auto insurance rates. More tickets can mean even higher rates, and too many tickets can even lead to cancellation of a policy. Depending on where the ticket was issued, it might be possible to keep it off your record by attending traffic school. You’ll still have to pay the fine and court costs, plus the additional costs of the school, but you may still come out ahead in the long run if your insurance rates stay low.
Many states allow traffic school graduates to keep tickets off their records, and more are adopting this approach, but not all police departments and courts advertise this – because they don’t want you to speed in the first place. If you do get a ticket, you may have to contact the prosecuting attorney and ask about traffic school, or other ways to reduce your charge and points or to avoid a ticket on your record. Or you may learn about it on CourtReference.
California has an extensive traffic school program and doesn’t try to keep it a secret. Just take a look at CourtReference’s Guide to California Courts – Self Help and Legal Research page, and look for “traffic school” as you scroll down the page. You’ll find links to:
- The Department of Motor Vehicles Traffic Violator School Unit’s statewide list of school locations by county
- The California Traffic Safety Institute’s searchable statewide list of classroom and home-study traffic schools
- Coordinated Court Services (a private company) searchable statewide list of classroom and home-study traffic schools
- The National Traffic Safety Administration’s searchable list of online traffic schools in several counties
- Many links to traffic ticket and school information in individual counties – starting with Alameda County
In order to attend traffic school in California, you first have to plead guilty and be convicted of the offense. First, be aware that not everyone who gets a ticket in California gets to go to traffic school; eligible drivers must not have a commercial license; must not have attended traffic school in the past 18 months; must not have been convicted of speeding more than 100 miles per hour, reckless driving, or DUI; must not have a Failure to Appear hold on their license; and the violation cannot involve alcohol or drug use or possession. If you are eligible, you must still pay your fine, an additional court fee, and the cost of the school. If you fail to complete the course, the violation will appear on your record. If you complete the course and present your completion certificate to the court on time, your conviction will not be dismissed, but it will become confidential and will not be visible on your public driving record.
Traffic school in New York is only available in some counties as a diversion program run by District Attorney offices. Check CourtReference’s Guide to New York Courts – Self Help and Legal Research page, and scroll down to Allegany County or Orleans County for links to their programs. The Orleans County program is similar to those in California: not all offenses are eligible, you can’t have another conviction or traffic school for the past 18 months, you have to pay the fine plus court fee plus school cost. The Allegany County program excludes drivers who have participated in the program before, have a commercial license, have more than four points on their driving record, have a DUI offense within the past 18 months, were involved in an accident at the time of the offense, or were speeding in excess of 30 miles per hour over the limit. New York drivers who complete one of these programs have their charges dismissed.
If you have a ticket, contact the court or prosecuting attorney to see if you can keep it off your record by going to traffic school. But check CourtReference first for links to traffic school information in your area, so you know the rules before you talk to the DA.