What is a defensive driving course?

January 8, 2021

Learn all about defensive driving courses and their many benefits

Hands on a steering practicing defensive driving

It can be easy at times to dismiss driving as a simple task. After all, most of us do it every day and eventually, it becomes a process as routine as walking or riding a bike. However, no matter how mundane it seems, driving is complicated and often requires more thought and attention than we might give it.

Fortunately, defensive driving classes can provide even the most seasoned drivers with helpful tips to keep them out of harm's way. That's why most insurance companies offer drivers a discount on their auto insurance for completing such a course! So what do these classes entail? How do you know if you're eligible? What is a defensive driving course anyway? We'll answer these questions and more, so read on!

What does "defensive driving" mean?

You've probably heard the term "defensive driving" before, but what does it refer to exactly? Defensive driving is a collection of safety principles and guidelines intended to reduce collisions and ultimately, save lives. While some driver safety courses focus on vehicle operation and control, defensive driving takes this a step further and teaches participants to be aware of their surroundings, anticipate problems, and avoid hazardous situations caused by the environment and other drivers. 

What does a defensive driving class cover? 

A defensive driving class aims to teach the principles outlined above and gives drivers helpful tips and techniques for safe driving and collision avoidance. Such classes also explore the common causes of auto accidents. Although the exact curriculum will differ based on the school or company teaching it, they are likely to include some (or all) of the following concepts, topics, and information:
  • Traffic safety laws and best driving practices, such as safe following distances, signalling, and speed limit observation
  • Common vehicle safety features, such as anti-lock brakes and passive restraint systems
  • Situational awareness and alertness
  • Environmental hazards, such as adverse weather conditions or driving at night
  • Operator hazards, such as sleep deprivation, drug or alcohol impairment, and distracted driving
  • The importance of auto maintenance, such as windshield wiper replacement, tire maintenance, and brake maintenance

What are the benefits of taking a defensive driving course?

First and foremost, the primary benefits of a defensive driving course are the tools and education for safe driving that they provide. For some drivers, some of the information may be more of a review, but even in those cases, the concepts are important enough to warrant a refresher. Not only does defensive driving training help you stay safe, it helps create a safer driving environment for everyone. 

Ticket dismissal. Apart from the educational benefits, defensive driving courses can occasionally be used for ticket dismissal. In many states, including Texas, tickets for certain traffic violations can be dismissed after taking state-approved defensive driving classes, as long as certain eligibility requirements are met (more on that below). 

Defensive driving auto insurance discounts. Most insurance companies will provide some sort of discount upon completion of a state-approved defensive driving course.

How does a defensive driving course work in Texas?

Now that we have a solid understanding of what defensive driving is, let's take a look at how the courses work in Texas. 

Where can you take them? There are dozens upon dozens of different companies that offer state-approved defensive driving courses. Fortunately, in Texas you have the option of taking a defensive driving course in person or online. 

How long is the class? In Texas, the state requires defensive driving courses to be six hours long. However, if you take the class online, you typically don't have to take it all at once and most courses can be split into convenient pieces. In most cases, only those taking the class for ticket dismissal will have complete it by a certain date depending on the requirements of the court. 

Is there a test? Some classes choose to place quizzes at the end of the various sections, while others feature a final exam at the end. Depending on the provider, you may have the opportunity to retake the quiz or test in the event that you don't pass the first time. 

How do you receive your certificate of completion? Once you complete the course and pass any tests or quizzes, you'll get a certificate of completion. Some courses will mail you the certificate, others will email it to you, but most offer both options. Most companies will send notification of completion to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR), but you are usually responsible for providing proof to your insurance company or the court. 

How much does defensive driving school cost in Texas? The state of Texas requires that the defensive driving schools charge a minimum of $25. That having been said, you'll usually pay a little more depending on the company you go with. 

Defensive driving requirements: How to check if you are eligible for defensive driving in Texas

In Texas, pretty much anyone can take a defensive driver class as long as they meet the following requirements:
  • You have a valid Texas driver's license
  • You have not taken a course to dismiss a traffic ticket within the past 12 months
  • You do not have a violation in excess of 25 mph or more over the speed limit
  • You are not a commercial driver (CDLs are not eligible for Texas defensive driving courses)
Apart from that, insurance companies may have their own discount eligibility requirements, so make sure to check with them prior to signing up for a course. 

Getting a defensive driving auto insurance discount

Before taking a defensive driving course in order to qualify for an auto insurance discount, it's important that you speak to your insurance provider. While most insurance companies do offer such a discount, the specific details of that discount and the eligibility requirements can vary.

Discounts for defensive driving are different than discounts your provider may offer for other driver training classes, and they often cannot both be applied to the same policy. For example, some insurance providers will give discounts to drivers who have completed the driver training courses required for a driver's license. Although you may qualify for both, you can only receive the discount for one. 

Lastly, make sure to check with your carrier to understand what types of auto insurance policies are eligible for the discount. For example, the discount may apply to collision coverage, but not other than collision (OTC), or comprehensive coverage

How much does defensive driving lower insurance? The amount of the discount, and the specifics of the discount, will depend on the individual insurance company, but are usually up to 10% in Texas. 

How long does a defensive driving discount last? Again, this depends on your provider, but may the discount may last up to 36 months, or three years, from the date you received the certificate of completion. 

If you've contacted your insurance provider and decided to take a defensive driving class to qualify for a discount, you'll need to provide proof of completion. As we discussed, the company you sign up with should provide you with a certificate verifying that you took the course. Make sure to speak with your provider to find out what proof they require and verify that the school you choose can provide it.

Vehicles on a road practicing defensive driving

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Read more: Taking a defensive driving course is just one of the ways you can save money on your auto insurance. Read our blog to learn about the other common auto insurance discounts you should look for in Texas!

by Geoff Ullrich

About the Author

Geoff Ullrich is a writer and Content Marketing Specialist at Germania Insurance.