Defensive Driving Courses

All you really need to drive defensively is a little common sense, but you can take a defensive driving course if you think you need some extra help. These classes are often referred to as "traffic school," a program drivers use to erase points from their license after they get a speeding ticket, but they can also be useful for drivers who just want to brush up on their skills and learn how to prevent accidents. The American Auto Club (AAA), The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and a variety of other organizations offer defensive driving courses.

In a classroom, students spend four to eight hours learning driving techniques such as paying attention, following safely, observing right-of-way rules, passing safely and avoiding driver errors. These courses also teach students how to react safely in a variety of conditions, including how to:

  • Increase following distance and avoid being blinded by oncoming headlights at night, when visibility is low.
  • Allow for safe distances, maneuver around trucks and avoid aggressive drivers on the highway.
  • Drive safely on rain- or snow-slicked roads

Some courses are even held online, so drivers can learn right at home. Online courses feature interactive screens where users learn defensive driving techniques and take quizzes designed to test their new skills. (One program is even taught by stand-up comedians to make the experience more entertaining.)

These courses do cost money -- generally between $15 and $45. However, when you successfully finish a defensive driving course and receive a certificate of completion, you may be eligible for safe driving discounts of up to 10 percent off your auto insurance.

To find an approved defensive driving program in your area, check with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).