Published: May 25, 2022Updated: August 4, 2022

Defensive Driving: Courses by State

Get points off your driving record, and maybe even a discount on your auto insurance premiums.

Reading your state’s traffic laws is essential, but you have to do more than read to avoid accidents. Learning and practicing defensive driving techniques is one of the best ways to avoid accidents, and every state in the U.S. offers defensive driving courses. In many cases, taking a defensive driving course can reduce the number of points on your driving record or even make you eligible for a discount on your auto insurance premiums.

We’ve outlined what defensive driving is, its main principles, and how you can take an in-person or online course.

Defensive Driving

Let’s start by defining the term “defensive driving” itself.

Definition

Defensive driving is driving with a strategy to avoid collisions with other cars, potholes, and other hazards.

History

In 1953, Congress chartered the National Safety Council (NSC), a nonprofit organization dealing with safety guidelines. In 1964, the NSC created the first defensive driving course in the U.S. Since then, the organization has trained over 75 million drivers in every state in the country.1 Some states even outsource their defensive driving courses to the NSC, while some have their own in-state programs.
Defensive Driving

Principles

Defensive driving goes beyond merely following traffic laws. Its main principle is that you should anticipate situations based on environmental and road conditions to avoid accidents, like making sure there’s enough distance between your car and the car in front of you. Other principles include constantly scanning your surroundings and staying calm to avoid road rage. While similar practices aren’t required by law, they make for safer drivers and thus fewer accidents.

Courses and Training

Depending on your state, you can take a defensive driving course either online or in person. Some states will take away points from your driving record for taking a defensive driving course, and some insurance companies offer discounts on premiums. See what these safe driving courses offer in point reductions and auto insurance discounts in your state if you successfully complete your in-person or online defensive driving courses.

FYI

37 out of the 50 states mandate auto insurance discounts upon completion of defensive driving courses, although some discounts only apply to those 55 and older.

State Link to find
courses
When you’re
required
to take a
course
Points removed per
defensive driving
course
Auto insurance
premium discount
How long discount
lasts (in years)
Length of
course
(in hours)
Cost
of
courses
Alabama Not listed;
search on
city website
Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed
Alaska https://doa.
alaska.gov/
dmv/akol/
driving_
schools.htm
When you get 12
points in 1 year or 18 points in 2 years
Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed
Arizona https://www.
azcourts.gov/
drive/defensive
-driving-schools
Eligible violations
found here: https://www.
azcourts.gov/
Portals/47/2021/
List%20of%20
eligible%20
violations
%2001212021.pdf?
ver=2021-02-
08-174047
-933
Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Combination of the court
diversion fee, state fee,
state surcharge, and school fee
Arkansas None;
find through
agency director
When you have 10-23
points on current traffic
violation report
Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed
California https://www.
dgs.ca.gov/
ORIM/Services/
Page-Content/
Office-of-
Risk-and-
Insurance-
Management-
Services-List-
Folder/
Enroll-in-
Defensive-
Driver-
Training
Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed 2-2.5 $0
Colorado Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed
Connecticut https://portal.
ct.gov/
DMV/Insurance/
Insurance/
Insurance-
Discounts-
and-Driving-
Courses
Not listed Not listed 5% minimum Not listed Not listed Not listed
Delaware https://www.
dmv.de.gov/
DriverServices/
driving_courses/
index.shtml?
dc=
defensive_driving
Not listed Not listed 10%, or 15% if you take a refresher
course within 180 days of the end of the 3-year period
3 Not listed Not listed
District of Columbia https://dmv.
dc.gov/
service/
defensive-driving
-course
Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed
Florida https://www.
flhsmv.gov/
driver-licenses
-id-cards/
education-
courses/
driver-
improvement-
schools/
basic-driver-improvement-
bdi-find-
approved-listing-
bdi-
course-providers/
When you are cited in an at-fault crash
that resulted in someone going to the hospital; when you have 2 crashes within a 2-year period that resulted in more than $500 of property damage; if you pass a school bus when it is displaying a stop signal, race on a highway, act as a spectator of highway racing, drive recklessly, or run a red light
Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed
Georgia https://online.
dds.ga.gov/
ddsgeorgiagov/
locations/
driver-
improvement-
schools.aspx
When the court orders it 7 maximum Not listed Not listed 6 minimum $95
Hawaii https://hidot.
hawaii.gov/
highways/safe-communites/
driver-
education/
When you have 3-6 points Not listed Not listed Not listed 16 Not listed
Idaho https://itd.
idaho.gov/
wp-content/
uploads/
2016/07/
defensive-
driving-
accident-
prevention.pdf
Not listed 3 Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed
Illinois https://apps.
ilsos.gov/
adultdrivered/
providerlist
Not listed Not listed Not listed 3 Not listed Not listed
Indiana https://www.in.
gov/
bmv/licenses-
permits-ids/
suspension-and-reinstatement/
citation-points-
and-
driver-safety-
program/
When you have 2 or more traffic
offenses within a year, or 2 or more offenses for those under 21 regardless of the time period
4 Not listed Not listed 4 minimum $55
Iowa https://iowadot.
gov/
mvd/
driverseducation/
Iowa-driver-
improvement-
program
When you have 3
countable moving violations within a year, commit 1 speeding violation of 25-29 mph over the limit, or unlawfully pass a school bus
Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed
Kansas 1-800-
432-2484
Not listed Not listed 5%-10% Not listed Not listed Not listed
Kentucky https://drive.
ky.gov/
driver-licensing/
Pages/Kentucky-
State-
Traffic-School.
aspx
When the District
Court that cited you refers you in a court order
Not listed Not listed Not listed 4 $39 online, $15 in person
Louisiana Not listed;
search on the
city website
Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed 4-6 in Baton
Rouge
$50 in Baton
Rouge
Maine https://www.
maine.gov/
dps/bhs/
driving-
dynamics/
classes.html
Not listed 3 Not listed Not listed 5 $40 for those
under age 65, $25 for those over 65
Maryland https://mymva.
maryland.gov/
TAP/IND/_/
When you are referred
by a District Court judge or administrative law judge in the Office of Administrative Hearings, have 5-7 points on your driving record, or are convicted or granted probation before judgment for a moving violation while holding a provisional license
Not listed Not listed Not listed 4-8 Set by individual
providers
Massachusetts https://www.
mass.
gov/
info-details/
driver-attitudinal-
retraining-courses
Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed
Michigan https://www.
michigan.gov/
msp/0,4643,
7-123-72297_
30536
-230768–,00.html
Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed 4 minimum Not listed
Minnesota https://
dps.mn.gov/
divisions/dvs/
forms-documents/
Documents/
Accident
Prevention
Course
List.pdf
Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed 4-8 Not listed
Mississippi Not listed;
search on city website
Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed
Missouri Not listed;
search on city website
Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed
Montana https://
svc.mt.gov/
doa/
rmtdtraining/
Account/Login?
returnUrl=/
register/5
Not listed 0 10% Not listed 4 Not listed
Nebraska https://dmv.
nebraska.
gov/
fr/
driver-education-
and-training-
courses-
certified-dmv
For those under
the age of 21, when you have 6 points, reinstatement of point revocation, or employment driving permit
2 if it’s completed on a voluntary credit Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed
Nevada Not listed;
search on
city website
Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed
New
Hampshire
https://www.nh.
gov/
safety/divisions/
dmv/
financial-
responsibility/
improvement.htm
When you have 3 points minimum 3 Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed
New
Jersey
https://www.nj.
gov/
mvc/license/
driverprograms.htm
Voluntary 2 Varies by insurance provider Not listed Not listed Not listed
New
Mexico
https://
transportation.
unm.edu/
driver-safety-
clients-students/
Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed 6 Not listed
New York https://
dmv.ny.gov/
pirp/classroom
When you have 11
or more points
4 (do not physically
come off driving record)
10% 3 5.33 Varies
North
Carolina
https://www.
nsc.org/
safety-training/
defensive-driving/
courses/online
Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed 4 $49.94
North
Dakota
https://www.
dot.nd.gov/
divisions/
driverslicense/
dldriverinfo.htm
For those under
the age of 18, when you have 6 points;
for those over the age of 18, 12 points or whenever the court orders it
Not listed 10% Not listed 4-8 Not listed
Ohio https://services.
dps.
ohio.gov/
DETS/public/
schools
When you have
2-11 points, a court order (but can’t get points credit), juvenile suspension that occurred before the age of 18 for drivers 19 and older, suspension for being under 21 and under the influence of alcohol while driving, or 12-point suspension
2 Not listed Not listed 8 Not listed
Oklahoma Not listed;
search on
city website
Not listed 2 Not listed Not listed 6 Not listed
Oregon https://www.
oregon.gov/
odot/DMV/
docs/
mv_accident_
prevention
_courses.pdf
for drivers
over the age of 55;
for drivers 55
and under,
check city’s
website
Not listed Not listed Varies by insurance provider Not listed Not listed Not listed
Pennsylvania https://www.
dmv.
pa.gov/
Driver-Services/
Mature-Drivers/
Pages/Mature-Driver-
Improvement-
Course.aspx
for mature drivers;
for drivers 55
and under,
check city’s website
Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed
Rhode
Island
https://
ridmv
reservations.
ri.gov/
Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed 6 $165
South
Carolina
https://www.nsc.
org/
safety-training/
defensive-driving/
courses/online
If your license
was suspended for a moving violation
4 maximum Not listed Not listed 8 Not listed
South
Dakota
https://www.nsc.
org/
safety-training/
defensive-
driving/
courses/online
Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed 4-8 Varies
Tennessee https://www.tn.
gov/
safety/
driver-services/
driver
improvement/
defensivedriving.
html
Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed 8 Varies
Texas https://www.tdlr.
texas.gov/
dessearch
Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed
Utah Contact local
courts
Not listed Up to 50 Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed
Vermont https://dmv.
vermont.gov/
driver-training/
driver-training-
schools
Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed
Virginia https://www.
dmv.
virginia.gov/
drivers/#clinics.
asp
When court-ordered 5 points every 24 months Not listed
but only applies to people 55 and older
Not listed 8 $100 maximum
Washington For those 55
and older:
https://www.dol.
wa.gov/
driverslicense/
seniors.html
Not listed Not listed Varies by insurance provider Not listed 8 Not listed
West
Virginia
https://
transportation.
wv.gov
/DMV/Drivers/
Pages/
Point-
System.aspx
Not listed 3 Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed
Wisconsin https://
wisconsindot.gov/
Pages/dmv/
license-drvs/
susp-or-rvkd/
traf-safety.aspx
Not listed 3 Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed
Wyoming Contact
local courts
If you are
fined for not wearing a seat belt and don’t pay the fine
Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed Not listed

Taking a defensive driving course is an easy way to get an auto insurance discount. The average cost of auto insurance may be higher for some people than others. For example, the cost of auto insurance for teens and the cost of auto insurance for those with accidents in their driving histories tend to be higher than the cost of auto insurance for an adult with no history of accidents. Learn other ways to lower your auto insurance cost.

Most defensive driving courses only take about four to eight hours, depending on the state. Use the chart above or contact your local court to find approved courses in your state.

Tips

Tips

If you don’t feel like taking an entire course but want to learn the basics of defensive driving, here are some quick tips:

  • Check the weather conditions before driving and avoid driving in conditions like rain, snow, and hail.
  • Scan your surroundings constantly.
  • Make sure there’s enough space between you and the car in front of you by braking early.
  • Avoid road rage, as it can lead to more accidents and fights.
  • Don’t text and drive. Texting and driving is a form of distracted driving, which includes all cellphone use.2 Learn more about the fines for cellphone usage by state.

DID YOU KNOW?

In California, you can be charged $20 for the first offense of texting and driving and $50 for each offense after. Read more about the fines for texting and driving in California.

Recap

Whether or not it’s court-ordered, taking a defensive driving course is a great way to expunge points from your driving record or lower your auto insurance premiums. But note that defensive driving courses are not the same as traffic school or court. You won’t get a ticket dismissed, and you won’t practice your physical driving skills, for example.

To learn more, contact your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to see if you can remove points from a traffic ticket from your driving record. You can also read more in our complete guide to auto insurance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have more questions about defensive driving? We’ve answered the most common ones below.

Defensive driving means driving in a way that avoids hazards and accidents, going beyond traffic laws to drive safely.

These are the five strategies of defensive driving:

  1. Don’t drive while distracted by texting, talking on the phone, changing music, etc.
  2. Keep weather conditions in mind when deciding to drive.
  3. Scan your surroundings constantly while driving.
  4. Try to stay calm and avoid road rage.
  5. Keep a significant distance between you and other cars.

Yes, it is worth it to take a defensive driving course, as it can expunge points from your driving record and save you money on car insurance. For example, in New York where we live, taking a course could reduce our points by four and give us a 10 percent discount on auto insurance for three years, for a course just over five hours long.

You don’t have to go to court in order to take a defensive driving course. Some people take the courses voluntarily to save on auto insurance premiums. To get credit for it with your state, you’ll most likely have to mail in your certificate of completion. See your state’s DMV website for more information.

Citations

  1. NSC Defensive Driving Safety Training. National Safety Council. (2022).
    https://www.nsc.org/safety-training/defensive-driving

  2. 5 Tips For Defensive Driving. Geico. (2022).
    https://www.geico.com/living/driving/auto/car-safety-insurance/defensive-driving/