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What is a Defensive Driving Program?

By D. Jeffress
Updated May 17, 2024
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A defensive driving program is a training course designed to help people improve their ability to identify and avoid potential accidents on the road. Students learn specific driving techniques to reduce the risks posed by hazards such as inclement weather, dangerous intersections, and careless drivers. An individual is usually ordered by a judge to attend a defensive driving program following a traffic violation, though some individuals voluntarily enroll in programs to improve their driving skills. A training program may take place in a physical classroom or an online setting, and can usually be completed in a single day.

The main focus of many defensive driving programs is to increase drivers' awareness of their surroundings. Students learn to recognize and literally steer clear of risky situations. Instructors provide tips for driving in bad weather, such as braking sooner in the rain and identifying icy patches of road. A training program also teaches students how to approach and maneuver dangerous curves, narrow roads, and crowded intersections. Individuals learn to avoid erratic drivers, frequently check side mirrors, and be prepared to quickly and safely stop when necessary.

Defensive driving programs that take place in physical classrooms are usually led by skilled, certified instructors. Programs are typically available at courthouses, community centers, and private training schools. Students are given books or pamphlets that include reading material, diagrams, exercises, and tests. In addition, many instructors give lectures and show short videos during training sessions to emphasize important points. A successful student is awarded a certificate of completion at the end of a day-long defensive driving program.

An individual who enrolls in an online defensive driving program has the ability to complete exercises at his or her own pace. A person can view reading material, interactive diagrams, and videos from any computer with Internet access. Many online programs feature email or chat applications that allow students to communicate with instructors. A dedicated student may be able to finish all exercises and requisite tests in less time than it takes to complete a physical defensive driving program.

The majority of people enrolled in defensive driving programs are appointed by courts in order to avoid fines from traffic violations. By taking a class, an individual may be able to completely erase the violation from his or her driving record. In addition, many automobile insurance companies offer discounts to people who voluntarily take defensive driving courses. Some individuals, especially new drivers, enroll in programs to simply improve their knowledge of safe driving techniques. Defensive driving programs have proven effective in many states and countries at reducing students' risk of violating traffic laws and getting into accidents.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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