In Maryland, traffic school or defensive driving courses are known as driver improvement programs. Most drivers go through these programs to fulfill a requirement of either a traffic court of the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA). There are also drivers who take a driver improvement program voluntarily to lower their auto insurance rates or simply improve their driving skills.
There are several situations where you will need to take a driver improvement program.
A traffic court and the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) both have the authority to require you to go through a driver improvement program for a moving violation or an accumulation of moving violations. If you had a provisional driver's license and you received either a conviction for a traffic offense or a probation before judgment, then you will also need to take a driver improvement program.
The MVA has a point system, and violations put points on your driving record. If you get at least 5 points on your record, then the MVA will require you to take a driver improvement course to prevent further issues.
The MVA makes it easy for you to find a driver improvement program regardless of who ordered you to complete a program. After a court, the OAH or the MVA orders you to complete a driver improvement program, the MVA mails you a written program notice within 4 to 6 weeks. That notice will include everything you need to know, including the violation that resulted in this punishment, how long you have to complete your traffic school, and any necessary documentation or fees.
The MVA provides a list of valid driver improvement programs on its site.
You need to select one of the driver improvement program providers from the MVA site and then contact that provider for more information, including class openings. You'll register for class and pay your fee through this provider, and it's important that you also bring your program notice from the MVA to your class. If you lost it, you can obtain a copy through the MVA.
Driver improvement programs range anywhere from 4 to 8 hours, and you complete the entire program in one day. There are both classroom and online options available on the MVA's list of approved providers. Once you finish the program, you receive a certificate of completion from the provider. This certificate is for your records and you don't need to show it to the MVA, because the program provider will let the MVA know that you completed the program.
After completing the program, you may still need to pay off fines and other fees. It's crucial that you go through a driver improvement program when required, because if you don't, the MVA could suspend your driver's license. The MVA may also suspend your license if you commit severe violations or get too many points on your record, so it's important that you apply what you learn in your driver improvement program to reduce your risk of future tickets.
You can also take a driver improvement program voluntarily, and if you do so, you can choose to take a course online, in a classroom setting, or by watching a DVD.
The program will still take between 4 and 8 hours to complete, and you can expect it to cover defensive driving techniques, accident avoidance, traffic laws in Maryland, drug and alcohol-related driving offenses, and building safe driving behaviors.
Depending on the program, there may be a final exam at the end with questions on what you just learned. You'll need to pass the exam to complete the program, and you may be able to retake it if you don't pass the first time around. You should get a certificate of completion when you finish the course.
Your auto insurance company may give you a discount on your monthly insurance premiums if you complete a driver improvement program. To find out, call or email your insurance company and ask. If they do offer a discount, you should also ask if they have an approved list of programs, or if you can choose any program you want. Not every insurance company offers discounts for traffic school. If yours doesn't and you're not satisfied with what you're paying, then you should think about shopping around for other options. For questions about Maryland SR22 insurance please check out our other full length article on the subject.
Check with your insurance company regarding what they'll need from you after you complete a program. More than likely, they'll have you provide them with your certificate of completion to verify that you finished a course.