Defensive driving school: an option worth considering

By: 
DONALD WATTS, Lessons from the Bench

Many of us, including me, have received a traffic ticket. I was in the wrong, so I chose to go to driving school and the ticket was dismissed. When I was a police officer, I would often refer to traffic tickets as “certificates of driving achievement,” which would often get a laugh out of the driver.
If you receive a traffic ticket, you have a couple options. First, if you feel the officer issued you a proper citation, then you can simply pay the fine or you can attend defensive driving school if you are eligible.
If you feel the officer should not have issued you a citation, then you should request a hearing/trial and have the officer explain in a court why he or she issued the citation. Keep in mind that if you choose to have a hearing, you give up your opportunity to go to defensive driving school as a penalty.
A couple of important things to keep in mind for defensive driving school:

  1. You can only attend defensive driving school once every 12 months.
  2. The charge must be civil. Criminal charges are not allowed.
  3. You can attend online or in person.
  4. When you attend the school, no additional fine is due to the court.
  5. If you request a hearing/trial, you cannot attend driving school.

If you attend defensive driving school, you will learn about Arizona law and how to make better choices when driving. When I attended, I heard many people say, “I did not know that.” So you will come away feeling like it was worth it.
Sometimes, I am asked, “What happens if I do not take care of a traffic ticket?” If it is a civil ticket, you run the risk of having your driver’s license suspended. If it is a criminal ticket, you run the risk of having a warrant issued for your arrest. Neither option sounds great to me. It is so much easier just to appear in court and take care of it one way or another.
Lesson from the bench: Always be on your best behavior when you are driving for the safety of everyone on the road. However, if you do get a “certificate of driving achievement,” be sure to consider taking defensive driving school.
Judge Watts’ webpage is DonaldWatts.info.

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