Traffic school is a "free pass" issued by state governments to first-time or infrequent traffic offenders. If you have a good driving record and your violation is minor, you are likely to qualify for traffic school. Thanks to the growth of the internet, you can now take traffic school online for certain tickets and avoid the hassle of going to a physical location. However, not all violations qualify.
Typical traffic school tickets
Speeding is the most common traffic violation in the country, with - on average - over 100,000 citations issued every day. Police tend to focus on speeders because it's the cause of one-third of accidents in the United States. You'll be happy to know that if you receive a speeding ticket you can qualify for traffic school under most circumstances. In fact, most common traffic tickets are eligible for traffic school, including unsafe lane changes, running a red light, and failing to wear a seat belt.
More serious violations generally cannot be dismissed by traffic school. Specifically, any violation which is a misdemeanor (or felony) cannot be cleared through traffic school, including driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, reckless driving, and leaving the scene of an accident - also known as a "hit-and-run." The list doesn't end there. If you commit a violation while driving a commercial vehicle, you aren't eligible for traffic school. Driving without a license or insurance cannot be cleared up through traffic school, either. More serious violations, including those that cause property damage or injury or death to a person, are also ineligible.
Even if your traffic ticket would otherwise be eligible for traffic school, there are instances where you as a driver render that violation ineligible. For example, if you've been to traffic school within the prior 18 months, you cannot attend again. If you already have 3 or more points on your driving record, you are similarly ineligible for traffic school.
Online traffic school process
While the process for online traffic school is similar in most states, there are regional variations. For example, in Michigan, traffic school is known as a "basic driver improvement course," or BDIC. Unlike other states, you can only take the BDIC once to clear a ticket off your record.
If you are eligible for online traffic school, you'll receive a notice from your state before you're due to appear in court. The notice will provide a list of approved traffic school providers from which you can choose. Once your course is over, the provider will generally file an electronic certificate of completion with the state, and your ticket will never show on your driving record.
To learn more about whether or not your state accepts online traffic school, visit your state's DMV or motor vehicle office's website. For general traffic school information, you can also visit DMV.org.