Online Traffic School for Virginia
Virginia refers to its traffic school or defensive driving programs as driver improvement clinics. In some cases, either a traffic court or the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will require that a driver complete a course at a driver improvement clinic. Even if it isn't required, there are potential benefits to completing one of these courses, including lowering your car insurance premiums or building up safe driving points.
Finding a Driver Improvement Clinic in Virginia
There are online and classroom driver improvement clinics in Virginia. The DMV provides a list of approved driver improvement clinics on its website. It separates clinics by district, and also includes a section for online clinics. It's important that you find an approved clinic to ensure that you get credit for completing your course with the DMV, your traffic court or your insurance company.
Every driver has their own preference regarding online or classroom courses. An online course gives you more flexibility, as you can start and stop the course whenever you want to fit it around your own personal schedule. You can also complete it all in one sitting if you have the time.
When you take a course in a classroom setting, you'll have an instructor available and you can ask any questions that you have. You will also probably get through the course in one same-day session, so you may finish up a classroom course quicker than you would an online course.
For a court-ordered court, you'll need to check with the court first to ensure that an online course is approved. Some courts will only allow you to take a classroom course. Drivers who are under 20 years old aren't eligible for online courses and need to take a classroom course instead.
Driver Improvement Clinic Formats
Each driver improvement clinic will work a bit differently, but you can expect them to cover the same topics and have the same general format. Courses will have individual chapters, with each chapter focusing on a specific topic. These chapter topics will include preventing accidents, what factors cause crashes, the cost of accidents, and Virginia's traffic laws.
Traffic Ticket Dismissals
Many drivers take a course at a driver improvement clinic to get a ticket dismissed, which will also prevent points from going on their driving record. Eligibility requirements for a ticket dismissal vary depending on the court, but courts will typically offer you this option if you have a valid driver's license, you weren't operating a commercial vehicle when you got the ticket and you haven't already gotten a ticket dismissed this way within a set amount of time.
Your traffic court might mail you a notice to let you know that you're eligible to get your ticket dismissed by taking a course at a driver improvement clinic. If you don't receive any notice of this, contact the court and ask if it's an option. Make sure that whichever clinic you choose is approved by the court.
Earning Safe Driving Points
The Virginia DMV has its own points system for drivers, where violations put demerit points on a driver's record. If you get too many demerit points, the DMV may suspend your license. However, the DMV also allows you to earn safe driving points which offset your demerit points.
Every calendar year that you have a Virginia driver's license and you don't get any violations, the DMV gives you safe driving points. You can also get safe driving points when you take a course at a driver improvement clinic. Completing a course is worth 5 safe driving points, the maximum amount you can have, and you're able to earn points this way once every 24 months.
Get a Discount on Your Car Insurance
Completing a course at a driver improvement clinic may earn you a safe driver discount on your car insurance, depending on your insurance company. For the most part, insurance companies offer these discounts to drivers who are at least 55 years old, but discounts may be available for drivers of all ages.
One important thing to remember is that you can't get both a discount on your insurance and safe driving points for taking a course. You must choose one or the other. If you're taking a court-ordered course, you aren't eligible for an insurance discount.
Completing Your Course
The standard length of time for a course in Virginia is 8 hours. Once you complete the course, you will usually receive a certificate of completion, which you can then provide to the DMV, the court or your insurance company, depending on what your reason was for taking the course. It's especially important that you verify completion of the course with the DMV or the court, as failing to do so could result in a suspension of your license.