What is Traffic School?

Cassie L. Damewood

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.

In traffic school, students learn that texting while driving is dangerous and possibly illegal.
In traffic school, students learn that texting while driving is dangerous and possibly illegal.

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.

Students in traffic school can learn how to navigate their vehicle in heavy traffic.
Students in traffic school can learn how to navigate their vehicle in heavy traffic.

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.

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Discussion Comments


I'm not even sure why some police departments even bother with traffic school anymore. Everyone involved knows it's a joke, from the students to the instructors. Nowadays, it's basically an open book test that doesn't really prove anything. I think more people do it for the discount on their fine than anything else. I wouldn't be surprised if more and more police departments stopped offering the traffic school option in order to save some money.


I had to attend traffic school about 6 weeks after I got my driver's license back in 1983. I accidentally hit my neighbor's car while backing out of my family's driveway and a police officer witnessed it. He said he would tear up the citation if I agreed to attend an approved traffic school.

Back in those days, there was no such thing as an online traffic school, and the instructors weren't very interested in making the class entertaining. I spent 12 hours in traffic school held at the county courthouse annex. It wasn't pleasant, but it did get me out of a citation.

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