A defensive driving course is designed to help drivers learn new defensive driving techniques, how to drive safely and how to reduce accidents and traffic violations. Courses may be taken online or at a local driving school. Online courses tend to focus on written instruction and may use an online driving simulation tool to test knowledge. An instructor-led course may incorporate driving lessons using hypothetical situations to test defensive driving skills. Defensive driving courses not only teach and refresh driving skills, but they may also help reduce the cost of insurance premiums. Some courts may even dismiss traffic tickets after one completes a defensive driving course.
Online driving courses are convenient and may be completed quickly, but they also require self-discipline in order for the student to complete the program successfully. Online courses do not offer the benefit of instructor feedback or class discussions, and there is no supervised driving practice. Most online courses are structured to present course information in sections related to driving safety, such as driving in poor weather conditions, night driving and margins of safety.
Once the student has reviewed the course information online, they may be presented with several quizzes at the end of each unit to test retention of the material. After the defensive driving course has been completed, students will take their final exams. The final exam is typically taken online as well, but some states require the student take a proctored exam at a central office location.
Instructor-led defensive driving courses are typically held at local driving schools. The courses are usually broken up over several weeks, consisting of weekly classes that meet for two or three hours at a time. The total course time is usually about six or seven hours, so the entire class should not take more than one month.
A defensive driving course taught by an instructor will typically contain the same content as an online course, but the material will usually be discussed in class, with time for students to ask questions. Most courses start by evaluating the students’ current knowledge of driving rules by administering a pre-course quiz. The instructor will then be able to evaluate the class level and review common mistakes made on the quiz.
After the initial assessment, the defensive driving course will focus on driver-safety strategies to avoid collisions, as well as safety margins such as acceptable distances to keep from other vehicles when driving in traffic. Drivers may also review road signs, signals and tips for highway navigation. In an instructor-led course, students will often get the opportunity to perform a vehicle examination to help them identify and troubleshoot problems with vehicle safety features, such as air bags, brakes and safety-belts.
Toward the end of the course, the instructor will usually take the students on the road to examine other drivers and point out ways to avoid aggressive driving behavior. The instructor may also point out tips for merging and exiting on the highway and discuss safe driving techniques when driving near trucks or larger vehicles. At the end of the course the students take a final exam that is usually administered by the instructor.