If you spend any time at all researching car insurance rates or reviewing auto insurance companies, you will eventually hear the phrase “defensive driving” come up. You probably know that some states use the term interchangeably with the “traffic school” to mean a class you can take in order to erase a traffic ticket, but you may not realize that defensive driving is more than just an alternative to forking over money. Instead, it is a manner of driving that makes use of specific safe driving skills and strategies to empower you when you encounter road hazards and unusual driving conditions. While these skills can be applied to normal traffic, they go far beyond basic traffic laws.
What to Expect in a Defensive Driving Class
Every defensive driving class is slightly different, but all the curricula are regulated by the state in which you take it, and teach rules and policies that are specific to where you live. Aside from the state-specific information that is usually included, there are several topics that are typically addressed:
- Awareness of reaction distance, and your own vehicle’s stopping distance
- Awareness of environmental hazards
- Paying attention to the road, and adapting to changing conditions
- Learning the two-second rule for following distances
- Right-of-way, and road sharing
- Passing and clearance distances
- How to handle railroad crossings
- Safe speed adjustments
- General information on crashes
- Psychological factors of crashes
- DUIs and other Driver Errors
Much of the material in a defensive driving class is directly related to crash prevention. This is because traffic accidents are almost always preventable, if you are aware of the hazards and signs. The general information will include an explanation of how a crash happens – how speed, impact point, and the size of the impacted object all determine the severity of a given crash, and how the initial vehicle on vehicle impact is only the primary collision.
Classes then demonstrate the concept of “second collisions,” which is when the driver and passengers collide with the windshield or other parts of their own car. This portion of crash analysis also includes a lot of information about seat belts, and why wearing them can save your life.
By teaching you how to analyze a crash scenario, defensive driving courses help you learn to avoid crashing.
Why Take a Defensive Driving Class?
In addition to the crash-avoidance information, and the state-specific traffic law refresher that comes at the end of most defensive driving classes, there are benefits beyond simply possessing new knowledge and skills that come with taking such a class.
While the specifics vary from state to state, along with the previously mentioned ability to erase a ticket from your record without your insurance rates increasing, if you take a defensive driving class without needing to clear points from your license, you could be earning a three-year long insurance rate reduction of up to 10%, and to continue the reduced rate, you can repeat the course with no problem.
Defensive driving classes come in both classroom and online formats, and last anywhere from four to eight hours. There is generally either a quiz or proof of attendance required.