Traffic school is commonly an option offered to traffic and driving offenders in traffic court as part of or in lieu of fines or other penalties issued by local or regional law enforcers. It is traditionally offered to those people whose infractions are considered minor because no property damage occurred and no people were harmed in the incident. The functions of traffic school are typically to educate drivers on the benefits of safe vehicle operation and deter repeat offenses.
The options for completing traffic school have evolved over time. At the time of its inception, the classes were only offered at a specified physical location, usually in a room at a local school or courthouse. The classes lasted around eight hours and were offered either in one session or over a series of sessions. They had a reputation of being excruciatingly boring, tedious and worthless in content.
To make them less painful and hopefully more educational, creative formats and locations were introduced in some areas. Comedy formats became popular. They employed local comedians to present the materials in a format that was meant to simultaneously entertain and educate. Another popular tactic was to hold classes at a restaurant or coffee shop in a private room that offered more comfort and amenities to students.
To ease the strain of attending traffic classes at a remote location, some regions offered offenders the option of a version of home schooling to meet their obligation to the court. Videos and workbooks were provided to students. They were obligated to watch the films and complete assignments, but were allowed to do so at their own pace and in the privacy of their homes.
More recently, online traffic school has proliferated. The advantages to this traffic school format, much like the home schooling option, are its availability in the privacy of students’ homes and the option to complete the training over a period of time rather than in one sitting. A significant number of online traffic school students have found the format to be less intimidating and more educational than that offered in a traditional classroom environment.
Although traffic school always costs students a fee, it normally decreases the monetary penalty incurred by the violation. It also generally reduces or eliminates penalties normally assessed on a person’s driving record that typically increase automobile insurance rates. These benefits, including the option of attending traffic school, are customarily only offered to first-time traffic and driving offenders. Repeat offenders are commonly required to pay their fines in full and suffer the repercussions of higher insurance rates.